Presence

We come to know God as love, as light, and as indwelling presence, so that we may become love and light and presence for others. In this season, reflect on how you can come to know God more fully. Pray that you may live and act so that others may know God through you.

Br. Lain Wilson, SSJE
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An Assured Hope – Br. Lain Wilson

Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle

Habakkuk 2:1-4
Hebrews 10:35—11:1
John 20:24-29

What would it mean for you to have proof?

This question is in the background of P. D. James’s novel Death in Holy Orders. A theological college holds a papyrus that purports to disprove the Resurrection. Surely, if this document proves to be authentic, the inspector asks one of the priests on staff, if it is hard proof about something that had until then only been a belief, this would surely be relevant to your faith. “My son,” the priest responds, “for one who every hour of his life has the assurance of the living presence of Christ, why should I worry about what happened to earthly bones?”[1]

Earthly bones very much worry the apostle Thomas, whom we celebrate today. Bones and flesh, blood and wounds—the physicality of Jesus’s body, the fleshly reality of his friend and teacher. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe” (Jn 20:25) Jesus lets Thomas see and feel his body, giving him the proof he seeks. But not without a rebuke: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (Jn 20:29). Read More

Presence

During this season of Advent, as we await the coming of Jesus, we can recognize that Jesus is already here—in word and sacrament, the gathered body of Christ, and within each of us. Jesus comes to us now, in the particularity of each moment and circumstance, and waits for us to meet him.

Br. Lain Wilson, SSJE
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Hope for Healing – Br. Lain Wilson

Isaiah 30:19-21, 23-26
Psalm 147:1-12
Matthew 9:35-10:1, 5-8

We find ourselves this Advent in a world that seems to be breaking down. A litany could encompass all ills and lands and peoples, and still feel incomplete. We find ourselves, this Advent, hurting, injured, crying out. Crying out for hope. Crying out for hope in God’s promise of healing.

The season of Advent layers time: past and future, memory and expectation, already and not yet. And God’s promise of healing is present in both layers. Part of Jesus’s ministry, as we hear in our Gospel today, was in curing every disease and every sickness. In the next chapter he will answer the messengers from John the Baptist by pointing to his own healing: “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, [and] the dead are raised” (Mt 11:5).

This healing is also in the future—at the end of things: the time of the harvest, in Jesus’s words. The prophet Isaiah reports God’s promise that, after the day of judgment, the people of Zion will weep no more, and that the Lord will bind up the injuries of God’s people, and will heal their wounds. Read More

Light

As we close this liturgical year and begin Advent this evening, we are reminded of our common vocation as Christians: to be Christ’s light in a dark world. Pray for the grace and courage to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, that we may be equipped to do the work God has given us to do.

Br. Lain Wilson, SSJE
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Conversation

To be agents of God’s kingdom on earth, we must be in conversation with God. Rather than, “what do I desire?” ask, “what do you desire for me?” Rather than, “how can I change myself?” ask, “how can I be open to you changing me?” Bring your desires to God, and bring God into your desires, and take comfort knowing that God will transform them, and you.

Br. Lain Wilson, SSJE
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Mary’s Brain – Br. Lain Wilson

Luke 1:26-38

What if this story is all about Mary’s brain?

The beats of today’s Gospel reading are familiar to most of us. Here at the Monastery, we recount them in the Angelus, which we pray before Morning and Evening Prayer. “The angel of the Lord announced unto Mary . . .” pause, “and she conceived by the Holy Spirit.”

So much happens in that pause. And what if it’s all about Mary’s brain?

Of all the young women God could have chosen, God chose Mary. And what is the first thing we find out about her? That she hears the angel’s news, is perplexed, ponders over his words, and questions him. The first thing we find out about Mary is that she responds to God by using her own God-given faculties of reason and intelligence.

Byzantine writer Nicholas Mesarites provides a cognitive description of this episode: “The word comes to the hearing of the Virgin, and enters through it to the brain; the intelligence which is seated in the brain at once lays hold upon what comes to it, recognizes it by its perception, and then communicates to the heart itself what it had understood.”[1] This then leads Mary to question the angel to determine the truth of the angel’s words. Only after she verifies the truth does Mary gives her yes to the angel, and to God. Read More

Everyday Saints – Br. Lain Wilson

All Saints’ Day

Revelation 7:9-17
Matthew 5:1-12

I had a tough day yesterday.

Not that anything was particularly bad; everything just seemed slightly off. I felt like I wasn’t able to see things head on. I couldn’t wrap my head around what needed to be done, I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t seem to stay on top of things. I had to sit down, take a breath, and say to God, “I need something. I don’t know what I need, but I need something, just to get me through to the next thing.”

It was just one of those tough days. I’m sure you’ve had one or two of those yourselves.

But it was also a day that felt completely self-indulgent. With so much going on, here and around the world, with so much pain and suffering, who am I to complain about an off day? Surely it’s better to acknowledge my own struggle and move on to praying for these bigger issues. I had a tough day, but so many people are having tougher ones.

I’m sure you’ve felt this way, too.

Yesterday was a tough day.

And yesterday reveals why today is so important. Read More

Everything You Do Matters – Br. Lain Wilson

Feast of Saint James of Jerusalem

When was the last time you wore a uniform?

I remember all the uniforms I’ve worn over the years, whether for sports or school or choir. They each signaled commitment, belonging, and interest, and equipped me for performance. I also remember something my parents told me: that when I wore a uniform, I wasn’t only representing myself—I was representing the group I belonged to. I took on the reputation of the group when I put on the uniform—and, just as importantly, my behavior contributed back to that reputation. Whose you are matters, and everything you do while wearing the uniform also matters.

I have these two themes, belonging and action, on my mind today, the feast of Saint James of Jerusalem. The early Church recognized him, as we do, as a brother of Jesus, as attested in our Gospel lesson. But he wasn’t just a relative. Other biblical texts, including our readings from Acts and 1 Corinthians, show that James was one of the leaders of the Christian community in Jerusalem. Nonbiblical sources, meanwhile, signal that James was not only one of but the leader of the Jerusalem Church, a figure of towering importance for a community that faced fundamental questions of identity and mission. In particular, James was the leader of the group that argued for continued observance of at least some Jewish laws by followers of Jesus, in contrast to leaders like Paul who advocated for the development of a Christian community free of requirements of the law. Read More

Shamelessly Free – Br. Lain Wilson

Malachi 3:13-4:2a
Luke 11:5-13

If you’ve been around children for more than about five minutes, I’m sure you’ve gotten frustrated. They interrupt and question when you just want to have a nice conversation. They run ahead, or behind, or zigzag, or sit down when you just want to have a nice walk. Think about that behavior. Now imagine yourself doing it. Does it make you uncomfortable? Do you think about what other people may think about your doing or asking? Name that uncomfortable emotion. Is it embarrassment or, perhaps, shame?

The word in our Gospel reading translated as “persistence” literally means “shamelessness.” Your friend knocks at the door late at night, and knocks, and keeps knocking, without regard for what you think about him. He needs something. Like a child, he is unashamed of his need, unashamed to ask, unashamed to persist.

Children appear in both our readings this morning, and imagining a particularly shameless child helps us to understand not only what it means to persist in prayer, as Jesus exhorts us, but to persevere in a relationship with God. God, Malachi tells us, will have compassion on those who serve God, as parents have compassion on “children who serve them” (Mal 3:17). I imagine this group not just as obedient children, but as shameless children, unembarrassed to revere God, unconcerned by what others, who see no profit in serving God, may think about them. This is the shamelessness of the psalmist, who persists in giving thanks to God despite those who mock him. This is the shamelessness of Saint Paul, who is unashamed of the Gospel (Rom 1:16).

This is difficult. We face enormous personal and social pressures to care about what others think, to conform, to grow up. But when we apply this to God, how easily we complicate our relationship with God. What childlike shamelessness gives us, I think, is single-minded freedom. Think back to that child. How would she express her need, how would she pray, how would she relate to God? Where do you feel resistance in doing likewise? What would it take for you to turn to God like her—unencumbered, unembarrassed, unashamed? Ask Jesus to give you that freedom—the freedom to ask, to search, to knock . . . the freedom to be shameless.

Amen.