Thursday, June 20, 2013

Reflections on "In the Name of Jesus"

     Today I finally began to read books that are not school related.  In fact, they are books that enhance my spirituality. Graduate school has taken a lot out of me.  Lord knows I have to recover mentally, physically, and spiritually.  I have already begun to work on myself physically by making good use of the running track two blocks away from my house in Astoria Park.  It feels great to be able to do physical activity on purpose.  I am very grateful that I was given three full weeks of time off before I start my full-time job which, by the way, I haven't announced yet but I GOT THE JOB AT MOUNT SINAI! I am grateful to God for so many blessings and the opportunity to begin my career at Mount Sinai as a Social Worker is truly a blessing.  It's difficult for one to think about how strong our faith is but I think of moments like this when I stood my ground mentally and emotionally about placing my faith in Christ and not on what society was dictating and it makes me want to rejoice!  Thank you Jesus for all your blessings! Speaking of Jesus, I started reading the book "In the Name of Jesus" by Henri J.M. Nouwen and it has been a great source of bringing me closer to Christ through the deep meditations of Nouwen. It was difficult to put the book down every so often to meditate on something I felt was profound but I managed to do so and completed the book.  Nouwen uses the experiences that Jesus had in the desert to write about christian leadership.  It is a great book for those who are trying to lead a Christian life during these trying times.  It spoke to me very profoundly as I've had times when I've gotten frustrated with the clergymen and the church in their interpretations and actions done in the name of Jesus.  Nouwen gives constructive criticism that brings peace to my soul about many frustrations I have about the church today.

     While reading this book a situation came up where I had to return to my old neighborhood parish (which I truly deeply love).  In the past, I had some disagreements with the Monsignor there and I didn't quite know exactly why.  I just knew that the times I encountered him my spirit felt very uneasy.  I respectfully communicated this to him and although we tried to get past it, it was a feeling I still cannot explain.  Last week when I visited the parish he was giving mass.  For some reason, I no longer felt uneasy in his presence.  After mass, he came over to say hello and I felt truly glad to see him and no longer felt uneasy.  Perhaps I was not in a good place spiritually then or perhaps it was the only way for me to explore a new parish.  I don't know what it all meant but I am glad to be at peace about it.  Reading this book also comforted me in knowing that even Nouwen at the time he wrote this book had the many concerns that many of us still have today.  I have written down some quotes below that stood out from the book and share some reflections of my own.  I welcome you to use the quotes by Nouwen as meditations or even more so I encourage any person interested in Christian leadership to read this book.

Quotes from "In the Name of Jesus" and some of my reflections:

"Jesus did not send His disciples out alone to preach the word.  He sent them two-by-two."

     Nouwen reminds us that in Mark 6:7, Jesus sends the disciples out in pairs to share the good news.  He talks about how we are often called to share the Gospel in community.  He also reminds us that in Matthew 18:19-20 Jesus is again referring to how the power of God comes fervently when people gather.  When I think about my life I can say that praying and serving in community is definitely a powerful experience. It is those experiences that have strengthened me spiritually to stand up for many causes I am passionate about. 

"Indeed, whenever we minister together, it is easier for people to recognize that we do not come in our own name, but in the name of the Lord Jesus who sent us." 


"These broken, wounded, and completely unpretentious people forced me to let go of my relevant self-the self that can do things, show things, prove things, build things-and forced me to reclaim that unadorned self in which I am completely vulnerable, open to receive and give love regardless of any accomplishments."  

     I thought the quote above was very profound as one of the journey's that Nouwen was lead to after he had written several books and became well-known for his many accomplishments, was to a community with people who had intellectual disabilities.  In other words, everything he had done and accomplished was irrelevant to the people he was going to serve.  It was as if he had started all over just being his plain, vulnerable self and not the "famous" Henri Nouwen.  How many of us often take the time to return to that vulnerable self we once were before the titles, before the accomplishments, before becoming well known?

"I am convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her vulnerable self. That is the way Jesus came to reveal God's love.  The great message that we have to carry, as ministers of God's word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life." 

"Feeling irrelevant is a much more general experience than we might think when we look at our seemingly self-confident society."


"Knowing God's heart means consistently, radically, and very concretely to announce and reveal that God is love and only love, and that every time fear, isolation, or despair begin to invade the human soul, this is not something that comes from God."

    It is hard to remember this during times of fear, isolation or despair but it is necessary in order to live a healthy quality of life with peace in our mind and soul.

"...very few people know that they are loved without any conditions or limits."

     The above quote moves me to tears because so many of us rely on a conditional and limited love that often comes from human beings.  Nouwen refers to this kind of love as secondary love, which is the love we get from parents, family, and friends.  Yet, as Nouwen states, we need to rely on God's love which is primary, unconditional and unlimited.

"Contemplative prayer keeps us home, rooted, and safe, even when we are on the road, moving from place to place and often surrounded by sounds of violence and war."

     This reminds me that I have access to God from anywhere I am and through prayer and meditation I can feel safe and secure of that.  Even just meditating on scripture (such as Galatians 2:20 where Paul says "It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me") during times of trouble can bring me peace that God is constantly present.

"Through contemplative prayer we can keep ourselves from being pulled from one urgent issue to another and from becoming strangers to our own heart and God's heart."


"...many discussions then seem more like political battles for power than spiritual searches for truth."

   This spoke to me as we are living in a society where everyone has their opinion about morality and hardly is the mystery of Christ ever mentioned.

"The original meaning of the word "Theology" was "union with God", it has now become another academic discipline."

     Again, society is rapidly plunging into secularity and distancing itself from the spiritual.

"For Christian leadership to be truly fruitful in the future, a movement from the moral to the mystical is required."


The following excerpts from the book spoke to my new journey as a social worker:

"Jesus, speaking about his own shepherding ministry, says, "I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep" (John 10:14-15).  As Jesus ministers, so he wants us to minister.  He wants Peter to feed his sheep and care for them, not as "professionals" who know their client's problems and take care of them, but as vulnerable brothers and sisters who know and are known, who care and are cared for, who forgive and are being forgiven, who love and are being loved."

"Somehow we have come to believe that good leadership requires a safe distance from those we are called to lead.  Medicine, psychiatry, and social work all offer us models in which "service" takes place in a one-way direction.  Someone serves, someone else is being served, and be sure not to mix those two up!  But how can we lay down our life for those with whom we are not even allowed to enter into a deep personal relationship?  Laying down your life means making your own faith and doubt, hope and despair, joy and sadness, courage and fear available to others as ways of getting in touch with the Lord of life."

"We are not the healers, we are not the reconcilers, we are not the givers of life. We are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for.  The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God."

"Even the so called "helping professions" have been so thoroughly secularized that mutuality can only be seen as a weakness and a dangerous form of role confusion.  The leadership about which Jesus speaks is of a radically different kind from the leadership offered by the world."


(c) rosewillberose