Contemplative Guide 4 – Humanness

 

Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and with the people.

– Luke 2:52

 

 

Stilling: Being present to God

Begin with a simple stilling exercise.one candle 3

You may want to light a candle, or say a short prayer as you intentionally place yourself in the presence of the Holy One.

Find a comfortable position and be still for a couple of minutes. Concentrate on your breathing – slowly, in and out. Relax your muscles. Don’t worry about any thoughts that come into your head; acknowledge them, then come back to your stilling exercise.

 

Say the following prayer as you commit to being in God’s presence:

Dear God,

You sustain me and feed me;

Like a shepherd you guide me;

You lead me to an oasis of green,

To lie down by restful waters.

Dwell in me that I may dwell in you.

From Jim Cotter, Psalms for a pilgrim people, Psalm 23

 

 

With all our being

The only description we have of Jesus growing up is one small incident when he was 12 years old.[1] Jesus’s family had been to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. On their way back to Nazareth with their relatives and friends, it took them a full day before they realised Jesus wasn’t with them…  When they did not find him, his parents went back to Jerusalem and spent three days looking for him. Eventually they found him sitting in the temple courts, talking with the teachers there.

In a marvellous bit of understatement, Luke tells us that when they saw him, his parents were ‘astonished’. His mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.’[2] I can imagine that his mother said a lot more than that, and almost certainly in far less polite words. They obviously got over their misunderstanding though, and Jesus apparently returned to Nazareth and was obedient to them. Luke goes on to state that Jesus grew ‘in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.’[3]

Luke’s description of Jesus’s development suggests four domains or areas in which children grow and develop into adults: mental development (‘wisdom’), physical development (‘stature’), spiritual development (‘favour with God’) and social development (‘favour with men’)…

One of the most powerful aspects of Judaism and Christianity is that all these elements of our humanity are combined in our relationship to God. We are not just spiritual beings temporarily housed in physical bodies. We are human beings: physical, mental, social, and spiritual.

This is reflected in the great Shema prayer in Deuteronomy: ‘Shema Yisrael Adonai eloheinu Adonai ehad’[4] (‘Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one’).[5] The prayer affirms the unity of God and his relationship to his people. It goes on to focus on our response to God: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.’[6] This response comes from the totality of our humanness.

Jesus himself reflected this, affirming this commandment as the greatest of all: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[7] These four domains in Mark’s account seem to mirror the four domains we have considered above: we are to love the Lord our God with all our hearts (our social development, our relationships with others), with all our souls (our spiritual development, our emotions, the very core of who we are), with all our minds (our cognitive development, our thoughts and reason), and with all our strength (our physical development, our tangible human bodies).

While the precise words may differ between Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts[8] and the original Torah, the principle is the same: it’s our whole humanness that counts. We worship God with the entirety of our being – body, mind, heart, and soul.

 

 

Prayer: Encountering God

Choose one of the two exercises below as a contemplative approach to prayer:

Encountering God in our world or

Encountering God in Scripture (imaginative prayer)

 

Response: Blessing others

Think of a way in which you can bless a child today: this may be your own child, a relative, or someone known to you. You may want to pray for them; if appropriate, and with their parents’ agreement, place your hands on their head to pray for them and bless them; play a game or read a story with a child; write a card of blessing and prayer; commit to pray for a child throughout your week.

 

 Closing: Going on in God’s presence

Finish your time by saying the Lord’s Prayer.

 

 

 

[1] Luke 2:41–52.

[2] Luke 2:48.

[3] Luke 2:52.

[4] S. Schoenberg. Jewish prayers: the Shema. Jewish Virtual Library. www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/shema.html Accessed 11.5.14.

[5] Deuteronomy 6:4.

[6] Deuteronomy 6:5.

[7] Mark 12:30.

[8] See Matthew 22:37 for the comparison.

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