From An Invitation to Centering Prayer
History repeats itself. We’ve all heard that. We ask the same questions others have asked before us. We seek the same things others have sought before us:
A meaning for our lives,
and some kind of relationship with God that grounds all the rest.
We look for a wise person who has some answers and who shows by the peace in his eyes and the serene joy in his face that these are answers that work.
In recent years a lot of men and women have headed to the Far East in search of those answers. They have gone off to India, Thailand, and even more exotic places. Some have found something, but most have returned home to their own roots.
This isn’t the first time men and women have gone east. Remember Marco Polo, Mateo Ricci, and Francis Xavier? In the Middle Ages there were crusaders and pilgrims. Earlier there were other seekers. My patron Basil and his friends Gregory left the lecture halls of Athens in the fourth century to find a truer, deeper wisdom. John Cassian, the wealthy young man from Dalmatia, went the same way. Women, too: Paula and that delightful pair, Malenia the Elder and Malenia the Younger, a grandmother and granddaughter, sought this deeper wisdom.
We see this “seeking” back in Jesus’s time. What were the two young fishermen from the shores of Lake Galilee doing east of the Jordan? They were seeking a strange man who had emerged from the desert. He had long hair and a long beard; he wore a camel’s pelt, and it was said he ate only wild honey and chewed on grasshoppers! But he had a message. And people were flocking to him. John and Andrew went, too. “Are you the one?” they asked – the one who has the answers, the one we all hope for.
This man from the desert, John the Baptizer, was a humble man. “No, I am not he. But wait, prepare. He is coming.”
John and Andrew did wait. Then suddenly one day, as the Baptizer was preaching, he lifted up his eyes and saw him. “Look! Look there! There he is.” John and Andrew took off. As they ran up behind Jesus, the master turned. And he asked them what he asks each one of us – these are the first recorded words of Jesus to his disciples – “What do you want? What are you looking for?”
What is our answer?
John was a smart man. He wanted it all. “Master, where do you dwell?” He didn’t want any particular little thing. He wanted to move right in with the Lord.
Jesus replied, “Come and see.”
And they followed Jesus.
Probably John and Andrew fully expected Jesus to lead them to some house or small hut where they could stay with him to learn all the secrets of true happiness and divine wisdom. But soon enough they learned that while the foxes have their dens and the birds their nests, the Son of Man had nowhere to lay his head.
John followed Jesus faithfully for three years. He listened to his every word. He came to know that he was the disciple Jesus loved – just as each of us will discover if we spend some time with Jesus.
Finally a momentous night came. At first John did not know its full import, but at Jesus’s command he and Andrew’s brother, Simon Peter, prepared a special meal. At that meal Jesus opened his heart to John and the others in a way he never had before. And as he did, he finally answered John’s first question.
“He who loves me, the Father and I will come and we will dwell in him.” Where do I dwell, John? I dwell in you.
This is God’s favorite dwelling place on Earth: in you and in me.
God is everywhere, of course, but where does God dwell? The word “dwell” which John and Jesus used has a special meaning. It doesn’t just mean being there or living there, but being there with all the intimacy of loved ones or family. God dwells in us. God wants to share life intimately with us. That is the reason for the whole creation. “All things are yours, and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.”
God dwells with us. God is always at home within us. But, alas, most of the time we are not home.