What a wonderful afternoon we had last Sunday when we heard the incomparable Michael Kieran Harvey assault our senses with the unexpected. How amazing it was to hear music so different from that which we are used to describing as classical music but which was classical in every sense of that word.
The music ranged from gentle minimalist to a full on attack of technical skill, colour and sound. Yet it was all music, wonderful soul lifting music. Mystical and mysterious in some ways, not unlike the Gospel of John, dealing with the real in an unfamiliar manner.
This is the challenge of the Christian Gospel. It takes us out of the settled and accepted and forces us to confront ourselves and the deeper truth of life found in the ever-present Spirit of Christ. It calls us to be available to the guiding present of the Spirit in a similar way as the sheep follow the shepherd, conscious of their own capacity to act but willing to forgo that capacity to allow another to shepherd them.
This is where the church finds itself today. Who is it listening to? The dogma and doctrine of the past or the beckoning whisper of the mystical Christ to step out in a different way in a different time and place?
This is the challenge of the contemplative life, a life that empowered the writer of the Gospel of John to see beyond the physical, to see within and to encounter the Risen Christ Risen in our being.
Joan Chittister says: “Contemplation is a very dangerous activity. It not only brings us face to face with God. It brings us, as well, face to face with the world, face to face with the self. And then, of course, something must be done. Nothing stays the same once we have found the God within…. We carry the world in our hearts: the oppression of all peoples, the suffering of our friends, the burdens of our enemies, the raping of the Earth, the hunger of the starving, the joy of every laughing child.”