Abbot Philip: ‘Love is always a surprise and a choice’

monk-newmexico-240348-oAbbot Philip is a Benedictine monk who lives in the New Mexico desert at Christ in the Desert monastery. I find his reflections honest and clear. Here’s an excerpt from The Abbot’s Notebook (24 April 2013):

“For the past 50 years, there has been a movement of the Holy Spirit throughout the Church, bringing new ways of thinking, new ways of relating, new ways of dreaming.

This happens at times in the history of the Church and we should not be afraid of it. Not everything that happens in such movements is of lasting value. Not every road that is chosen leads directly to the Lord. Always there is enthusiasm and always there is resistance. The early monastic movement was in the midst of this kind of movement as well. What is important in our spiritual lives is seeking to choose the Lord Jesus and His ways. It is a personal encounter with the Lord that draws us to Him. I can sit here in my cell and spend time being still and listening. I can read Holy Scripture and understand what has been written.

What my heart longs for is to be with the Lord, knowing that He loves me and that my heart responds to Him. Such a love never excludes loving others. On the contrary, it demands of me that I love others because I know that I am loved. Love is always a surprise and a choice. It is a surprise because in the depths of my heart I recognize my faults and lack of love—and still He loves me. It is a choice because I can choose to ignore His love and not live in that love.So much of our spiritual life is remembering that we are loved. That is why we meditate, why we spend time reading the Scriptures, why we spend time with Jesus. In an ideal world, we would always remember that we are loved and that we live from that love. In our real world, we get distracted, forget who we are, forget that we are loved—and then live lives that are poor in love.Our ways of understanding and expressing the love of God are always influenced by the world in which we live. That is why it is important to recognize when the world is changing. Not every change in the world affects us, but we must be at least somewhat aware of what is happening around us.One of the changes that has touched us all is the internet and the various media of social communication. Even the Holy Father now uses Twitter!

When we meet a young person who is really caught up in these media, we can be totally amazed at the role of digital communication. The challenge is to learn how it can be used to deepen a spiritual life. Another change is the area of sexuality and relationships. It is still not clear how we will love out the values of Christ in a world that seems to have vastly different ideas about human relationships. There is need for much evangelization in this area. A third change is the relationship to leadership, both in the world and in the Church. In all of this, we seek the Lord Jesus and His love. May He guide us all.”–Abbot Philip, OSB

Read the whole reflection here.

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