If we choose to follow Jesus, each of us will be challenged to completely change direction. That will mean something different for each one of us. Jesus never stops calling us to follow him. Every morning, at the beginning of every new day, there is this gracious invitation to say ‘yes’, to leave all and ‘Come follow me.’
If you right now are experiencing darkness in your spiritual life, if with Job you can say “he has walled up my way so that I cannot pass” – hang in there! The dark night of the soul might well be God’s gift to you, and through the experience you may come to share in the dazzling darkness which is at the heart of our crucifixion/resurrection faith.
When I came to faith, one of my greatest discoveries was that I could speak freely and openly with Jesus. It was wonderful to sit down in the evening and look back over the day in company with him. At first it seemed quite strange to be able to chat with God so freely. But as I did so, I felt God’s hand gently guiding and restoring me.
Death cannot kill the love which binds us together with our departed loved ones in a communion which transcends time and space. For it is ultimately the unbreakable bond of love which lifts us above both time and space, and into the very life of God.
In our world of social media and information technology, Paul’s words are particularly instructive: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, think about these things.” If you have no guard, no discipline about which images and how many images you allow to bombard your imagination, it can do violence to your soul. It can take away your joy.
When a new man joins our community, the first few months can be quite bewildering for him. There are so many new things to learn, and so many new Brothers to get to know. “Where do you keep the spoons?” “What do you do on the Sabbath?” But after a while there comes this happy moment when instead of saying “you” he says “we”! He no longer feels like an outsider looking in, but has begun to put down roots and begins to feel at last that he belongs. And with belonging comes a deep contentment.
In order to thrive we all need to belong. I used to travel a lot in the Middle East and North Africa, and whenever I began chatting with a local, the first thing they would do is take out photos of their family. They expected me to do the same. They wanted to get to know me, so the first question was “show me your family.” “Who do you belong to?” Our fundamental identity has to do with belonging.
When Jesus looks at you and me, and longs to fill us with his life, what does he see? Does he see someone too full already? It could be too much stuff; we may be overwhelmed by busy-ness; maybe you are filled with anger, or an inability to forgive. Imagine Jesus looking at you and saying gently, “let it go, let it go.” Let it fall away like the autumn leaves.
Philip, Deacon and Evangelist
‘Hey! Do you go to church? Why?’ ‘Are you a Christian? Why? Just tell me in a few words.’ What would you say? If you only had 30 seconds, a kind of ‘elevator speech’, what would you say? ‘I go to church because…’ If you don’t say anything, you may have lost an opportunity. St Peter in this first letter tells us, ‘Always be ready to give an account for the hope that is in you.’ So, what would your 30 second account be?
Today we give thanks for a man who was always ready to give such an account. His name was Philip, and along with Stephen and five others, he was chosen by the apostles to be one of the first deacons in the church. Each of the seven men chosen exercised their vocation in different ways, but Philip was above all, an evangelist. And he must have been a wonderful evangelist because in the whole of the New Testament, filled with apostles and teachers and prophets, Philip is the only person to be called an evangelist. In Acts chapter 21, St Paul writes that, ‘When we came to Caesarea, we went into the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the seven, and stayed with him,’
Every day we are called to embrace new life, to leave behind what has become too comfortable. If fear stops us, we risk becoming like the pot-bound plant. The roots have nowhere to go but round and round the pot, eventually strangling and choking the plant.