Day 24 – Lenten Retreat with Thomas Keating

40a

I have been crucified with Christ

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When I had been in the monastery for a year or so, another person entered the community who seemingly had the same idea. Like me, he came to church regularly during all the periods of free time, but he had the good sense to get permission from the abbot, who could dispense from certain regulations, to sit down during his prolonged visits. That possibility never occurred to me. I made a point of not allowing myself any relaxation in observing all the rules.

For months the newcomer spent as much time in church as I did. Often when I came in from work, washed up quickly, and hastened upstairs to kneel in church, he would be there. A general sense of uneasiness started to float through my mind along with my efforts to pray: I wondered how he was able to get here ahead of me. Whenever I took a furtive glance in his direction, he always seemed to have a beatific smile hovering about his lips. The thought came, “How is it that I am wearing out my knees while this guy who is always sitting down seems to be enjoying the Lord’s special favors?” . . .

After three or four years of struggling with these feelings, I was thrown into a situation where I could speak with my brother monk. I discovered that he had the same problems I had in trying to find enough free time for prayer and that his periods of consoled prayer alternated with very heavy seas. As we sympathized with each other, my envy vanished and in time we became friends.

On the spiritual journey, there is usually someone in our family, business, or community whom we cannot endure, someone who has a genius for bringing out the worst in us. No matter what we do, we cannot seem to improve the relationship. This was the nature of my envy toward my brother monk. He had not done anything to cause it. God simply used him to reflect back to me what my problem was. Thus the person who gives us the most trouble may be our greatest gift from God.

— Thomas Keating in Invitation to Love

If you’re like me, I have failed miserably at New Year’s resolutions. But this year I am truly hopeful. My resolution is this:  If I have a problem with my relationship with you, I’m the problem.  I posted this on Facebook and I had all kinds of people telling me how wrong I was; that it takes two to make a conflict. PRECISELY!  When I remove myself from the need to be right, to be understood, to be justified, there is no longer a conflict.  And what is most appealing to this resolution is that I find myself in very good company; Jesus was the most misunderstood person in the world.  The added benefit of this practice is that it usually leads to an honest reconciliation. Saying, “I’m sorry,” saying, “I was wrong,” saying “I think you have a good point,” creates the bridge which is Christ Jesus.  Do you have a hard time owning your wrongness?  Ask the Holy Spirit to show you the truth of this reflection and help you crucify your need to be right.

Love in Christ,

Bishop +Ed

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The writings of Fr. Thomas Keating are taken from Spirituality and Practice. The reflections are my own.

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M.Rev. Ed Jansen is the Bishop of the Diocese of St. Benedict and Rev. Dr. Trish Gaffney is its Vicar General

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A home for orphans in Bangalore, India

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