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January 2020


A Contemplative Exercise for January

Saying for the month

 “Behold, I am making all things new”  Revelation 21:5 (ESV)


To begin the exercise, first spend a short while in relaxation and preparing to be still; become aware of the sounds around you and put them aside; offer this time of prayer to God.

Say this introductory invitation to prayer, then keep a further minute or two of silence:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11.28

 

Introduction to the first silence – a preparation for listening with the mind:

“Behold, I am making all things new”  

These words of the Risen Christ have a welcome ring of hope to us at the beginning of a new year, which indeed they were at the time – a period of prolonged and terrible persecution by the Romans of the first Christians who sacrificed their lives for their faith.

To put these Words of Jesus from Revelation into context, St. John was in exile on the island of Patmos and had a series of visions.  During this time of persecution John has a vision of a new earth and new heaven. He sees a holy city, the new city of Jerusalem where grief and pain will be no more.  He sees the end of this world as we know it and the dawn of a new and glorious world when God will live among His people. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, for death shall be no more, and the former things have passed away. He is making all things new.   This was a message of hope to the persecuted Christians and these words are also a message of hope to us and to all those who suffer in this troubled and divided world.

 We see the reality of the Kingdom of God as it will be and the glory of living in the presence of the Risen Christ.  At the same time, we see the reality of life lived in Christ as his faithful disciples here on earth today. For in Him we are made new and are a new creation. John looks beyond our troubled world and sees the glory of God.  God is triumphant throughout.  

Jesus came to bring new life.  He said “I have come that they might have life and life in abundance.”  During his ministry He transformed the lives of all He encountered, by His presence and His healing love.  Indeed He transforms the lives of all of us who believe in Him and live for Him. 

In St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians 2: 5 there is a clear message of being transformed by Christ:  “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All this is from God who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ.”

In the Old Testament God gives through the prophet Isaiah words of hope to the exiles, “Remember not the former thing, nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it” Isaiah43:18-19.  Christians are made new in Christ.  And all creation around us is constantly being renewed in a cycle of birth and re-birth.

This passage in Revelation is a vision for the future, and yet the words “are already fulfilled” Jesus is risen and ascended, and has said “Abide in Me as I in you.” Yet sometimes we seem to go on in the same old way.  Is it really possible to make me new?   How do we open ourselves to this renewal?  By declaring our faith and renewing our trust in Jesus; and by opening our mind and heart to Him.

So in our first silence we focus on these words of Jesus of hope and renewal; the promise of new life and of new beginnings.  Let them sink into our minds.  When we find distractions coming up, we just need to return to the Words, gently repeating them.

“Behold, I am making all things new”

A time is now kept for silence of the mind – between 5 and 15 minutes

 

The silence concludes with a short thanksgiving, and/or repeat the Saying:

Father, we thank you for the gift of your Word.

“Behold, I am making all things new”

 

Introduction to the second silence – a preparation for listening with the heart:

“Behold, I am making all things new”

Life with God is full of new beginnings.  In Him is the renewal of cold hearts and dimmed faith and all-but-extinguished hope.  So we turn back again to the Lord who makes ALL things new”.  He is working in us and transforming us all the time, into new people. He is the potter we are the clay. 

He never stops chiseling away at us, helping us to get rid of the old habits, and bringing forth new faith, greater love and gratitude, and readiness to work for His Kingdom.  We learn through suffering for we are a work in progress. Jesus has made his home in us and he transforms us from the inside.

At the beginning of a new year we may be asking ourselves: What is new?  The world still seems to be on a disaster course: people haven’t changed: and I don’t feel any different today than I did yesterday.   But God keeps saying to us: I AM making all things new.

In a sense this must be true.  From the human perspective, tomorrow does not yet exist, nor indeed does the next hour, minute or even the next second.  God has ordered creation in order that newness is happening all the time.  To grasp this fact requires vision, especially when the odds seem stacked against you and life is hard.   But we are helped by the knowledge that we are guided by God’s hand in all we do.

Some time ago I watched a documentary on television called “The Age of Loneliness”. It has been found that there are more people living on their own than ever before, partly because we are all living longer.    However, examples of people experiencing isolation and intense loneliness were not just elderly people but young people as well.  Christians experience this loneliness too.  When we don’t have human company, and friends to relate to, we can experience a feeling of loneliness and isolation.  But we do know that God is our friend in times of need and trouble and we never let go of hope. 

As Christians we are called to live in the present moment, not to dwell on the past or worry about the future, but to accept each moment as a gift and blessing that God continually gives us.    When we live in the present we are more open to what God may be saying to us and we see that God’s creativity never stops and that all the time He is doing a new thing in us and through us. In St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians spoken of earlier, he says that we are ambassadors for Christ.  

Our journey is not one we make alone or in private.  It is in the company of others, our friends and neighbours; our community; people we do not know but pray for; those in trouble to whom we might offer a listening ear or those who are sick. 

So, Jesus invites us at the start of this New Year to “Come with Me - Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt: 4:19)   Jesus also said “Launch out into the deep” (Luke 5:4).  Sometimes we are called to let go of the familiar and be prepared to go into the unknown and the unfamiliar.  There are times when God gives us opportunities and is asking us to do something different for Him.    This year we might well be called to a new task to work for His glory, but we all have this opportunity to step through the door that Jesus opens for us to a new beginning.

So let us once more listen to Jesus speaking His Words of hope to us and allow them to sink down into the very depths of our being, into the centre of our hearts where Jesus dwells. 

“Behold, I am making all things new”

A time is now kept for silence of the heart – between 5 and 15 minutes

 

Conclude the silence with a short thanksgiving and/or repeat the Saying:

Father, we thank you that your Word is alive and within us.

“Behold, I am making all things new”

 

Introduction to the time of intercession – we use our will to reflect God's Word outwards.

“Behold, I am making all things new”

In our time of intercession let us remember all who are without hope, those people who are suffering bereavement or marriage break-up and all those without homes and who are hungry.  So we let these Words of Jesus be reflected out from us to all for whom we pray.

Say the name of a person or a group of people, and after a short pause, repeat the saying.

Conclude the time of intercession with words of thanksgiving:

Father, we thank you that your Word has gone out through us to those for whom we pray.

 

Use the Fellowship Prayer or another closing prayer to conclude your time of contemplative prayer.

Ever Loving God, we thank you for all your unsearchable riches which pour forth from you as light from the sun, in boundless profusion and generosity, whether received, ignored or rejected. And now we offer to you, in so far as we are able, as an emptiness to be filled with your divine fullness, ourselves, our souls and bodies; all that we are, all that we have and all that we do, until you are all in all and we are complete. Amen.

 

You may wish to say the Grace together before departing.

 

                                       This month’s exercise was contributed by MN