Live the Questions.

Rilke-by-L.Pasternak1928

Portrait of Rilke by Leonid Pasternak – 1928

1st Sunday of Lent (B)

One of my favorite Christmas gifts last year came from my husband. He gave me and both of our daughters copies of A Year with Rilke. This book includes daily readings culled from the poet’s published works and letters. Inside the front cover of each book my husband suggested “we could all read the daily poem as a small way to stay connected throughout the year.” Our daughters are on their own now,  and one currently lives halfway across the country. Still, we regularly share with one another stories, articles, links, and podcasts that we think are interesting, so this gift has real meaning for each of us.

While I find each day’s reading thought provoking, I find Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet” to be the most memorable, and in fact, many of these linger well into my day. The following excerpt from February 18, for example, is a gentle reminder to step back, resist the urge to create neat piles, allow chaos a dwelling space, and live with the unfolding mystery of life. This is a good practice in general, but has particular value during Lent.


Live the Questions

I want to ask you, as clearly as I can, to bear with patience all that is unresolved in your heart, and try to love the questions themselves, as if they were rooms yet to enter or books written in a foreign language. Don’t dig for answers that can’t be given you yet: you cannot live them now. For everything must be lived. Live the questions now, perhaps then, someday you will gradually, without noticing, live into the answer.

— Worpswede, July 16, 1903, Letters to a Young Poet

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) has been called “the greatest German poet of the twentieth century” (The Economist). I’m going to bypass writing a short biography of the poet and just point you here instead.

Barrows, Anita, and Joanna Macy. A Year with Rilke: Daily Readings from the Best of Rainer Maria Rilke. 1st edition. New York: HarperOne, 2009. p 49.

You can find the book here, or at your favorite bookseller.

Where are you staying?

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

What is the meaning of the question asked of Jesus in today’s Gospel? Were the two disciples who had just met Jesus really interested in his accommodations? Hardly. Scholars indicate the gist of their question was something like “What are you all about?” This was the disciples’  response to Jesus’ probing question “What are you looking for?”

Place yourself in the story. John the Baptist, of whom you are a follower, points Jesus out to you and proclaims, “Behold, the Lamb of God” [John 1:35-39]. Say what? So compelling is John’s statement that you depart from him  and immediately begin to follow Jesus who turns to you and asks about your heart’s desire, then invites you to come and see what he is all about. And you listen.

The scripture does not provide many details on what happens next, the conversation, or teaching, but it does indicate the time: four o’clock in the afternoon—the time of temple worship—which you spend in conversation with Jesus. Afterward, Andrew rushes off to find his brother Peter and brings him to Jesus, too.

This is how it happens. This is what it means to be an evangelizing people. Everyone who seeks Jesus needs to find out for themselves what he is all about. But when one enters into communion with Jesus they experience union with God! It’s impossible to keep something of this magnitude to oneself. It is up to us to respond to the call, give witness, and in doing so, lead others to Jesus, just like John the Baptist and Andrew did.

Today’s readings can be found here.