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Seeing Jesus in Extraordinary Times

April 26, 2020
One of the walking paths on the grounds of St Bernard’s Abbey in Cullman, Alabama

Nearly six years ago I attended a Men’s Contemplative Retreat at St Bernard’s Abbey in Cullman, Alabama. It was a beautiful setting and a wonderful time of silence with the exception of our course gatherings. This was also the beginning of the transition for me from Silence being scary to Silence being welcomed. One blessing of the time at St Bernard’s was time spent wandering the Abbey grounds. This particular path reminds me that we can find Jesus in the midst of life. Especially in these extraordinary times we are called to look for Jesus in our midst.

Finding the quiet places is so important for me and for Denise too. It is in the quiet places and spaces where we recharge our spiritual batteries. Places like St Bernard’s Abbey… The Benedictine Sister’s Sacred Heart Monastery (also in Cullman)… the campus of Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama where we went for an Ignatian Silent Retreat… The Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia… and most recently The Abbey of our Lady of Gethsemane outside of Louisville, Kentucky speak to my own heart.

I have also gone to places of quiet where the only sounds were the sounds of nature… the birds… the ocean waves… the river flowing… the wind blowing in the trees…. In these places I have often sought God’s guidance in the midst of life’s challenges.

In a similar sort of way, the two disciples were walking along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. As they walked together they were discussing everything that had happened in Jerusalem. Even though we are two weeks removed from Easter, these disciples were walking to Emmaus on the day of Jesus’s resurrection. The last person they thought they would encounter on the road that day was Jesus. They had heard the story that the women brought back from the empty tomb. They had also seen Jesus stripped, beaten, scourged, and then crucified. They had heard him breathe his last breath and die. The image burned into their brains was of a bloody, beaten, disfigured man hanging on the cross.

So as they walked along the road a stranger came along side of them. They talked with him discussing Scripture and what had happened, yet they didn’t recognize him. It was only when he blessed the bread, broke it and gave it to them that they recognized him. They then realized that their hearts were burning within them as he shared Scripture and the journey with them.

In these unusual times of pandemic and COVID-19 we are finding ourselves isolated and often in silence. For some people the silence and the isolation are tremendously difficult. For some friends of mine, this is the time to reflect and to write music. For others photography has taken on a whole new meaning as they share the beauty of God’s creation with each other. Even those of us who are working frantically to offer Zoom opportunities for worship, fellowship, study, and meetings do get some time when it is quiet and we can simply absorb the wonder of God’s creation.

For me I embrace those moments of stillness and reflect on the writings of Thomas Merton as we contemplate the changes in the world and these periods of silence. This time has been a time of reflection and study. It has also been a time to simply stop, breathe, and be open to the Spirit’s call. In his book No Man is an Island, Merton said the following about art, life, and reflection:

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. The mind that responds to the intellectual and spiritual values that lie hidden in a poem, a painting, or a piece of music, discovers a spiritual vitality that lifts it above itself, takes it out of itself, and makes it present to itself on a level of being that it did not know it could ever achieve. (p. 35)

Perhaps if we are able to make good use of these periods of silence we will be inspired. Perhaps our hearts may indeed burn as the Spirit calls us and guides us through these challenging times.

2 Comments
  1. hlcgkids permalink

    Amen. Having a mind of a 20 year old and a body of a 80 year old I to have enjoyed the times of silence. Having 6 kids running around with all the joys that they bring is another reason. To say God has blessed us is a gross understatement and continues to do so with 16 grandchildren and 1 great grandson. We do live in God’s country where silence is only a few steps away. It is good that we can share what God has given us to others.

    • That is so wonderful!! Kids, Grandkids, Great Grandkids. What a blessing! Keep on keeping on my friend!

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