Thursday, March 15, 2007

15/03/07 week in the 3rd Sunday of Lent

[Please remember this is a sort of "menu" from which to select. No one has to pray it all]

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Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Today's Scripture

Psalm [83] or 42, 43; Psalm 85, 86;Jer. 10:11-24; Rom. 5:12-21; John 8:21-32

From Forward Day by Day:

Psalm 42. The LORD grants his loving-kindness in the daytime; in the night season his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.

Even as the days grow slowly longer, Lent can still be dark, our souls weighted by despair. How easy it is to know God's loving-kindness in the daylight of our lives, but how can we hold onto our faith in God's love during "the night season"?

Our psalmist offers the answer: song and prayer. An inner city priest I know spends extensive time teaching hymns and psalms and prayers to the children in her charge. Knowing these songs and prayers "by heart" gives the children armor against the dark world around them, life-giving words to replace the violent language they encounter on the mean streets.

We would do well to emulate those children, to learn ("by heart") psalms and hymns and prayers to use when our own words fail, when our minds, if not our neighborhoods, are filled with darkness and despair. Then we, too, can say with the psalmist: "in the night season his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life."

The indwelling of God is to hold God always in memory, his shrine established within us. --Basil the Great

Today we remember:
Another Lenten feria. Consider this:

On the Journey to Having a Heart of Flesh

In the Old Testament we hear Jeremiah state that God wants to replace our
heart of stone with a heart of flesh. It is a vivid metaphor to see a stone
shaped like a heart and compare it to a healthy, warm, and beating heart.
What kind of transformation does it take to make our heart move from
hardness to openness, from bitterness to acceptance, or from hatred to love.

The transformation comes when we realize that our brothers and sisters
around us are just like us. As Richard Rohr says so succinctly, "we are all
naked under our clothes." We are all seeking the way. Some of us have
different hurdles to climb over but indeed we are all searching. When we can
come to understand the oneness of our alikeness we can begin to have a heart
of flesh. When we can be open to our own gutsy truth and speak it to someone
it no longer claims us and we can begin to chip away at the hardness we have
so valiantly protected. When we can finally say that others have a story
too, we can begin to break down the density of the stone. When we realize
that everyone comes into who they are because of their own life experience
then we can understand one another.

Living with a heart of flesh is living with a sense of abundance and not in
fear of scarcity. It is knowing that I don't have to defend my little world
any longer and that my God will provide all that I need. I want my heart of
flesh to be grounded in this truth.


VICTORIA SCHMIDT lives in Springfield, Illinois (USA). She has a missionary
heart that has been formed by thirty years of missionary work around the
world. She currently serves as Director of Theresian World Ministry, an
international Catholic women's organization.

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of Mount Kenya West (Kenya)

40 Ideas for Lent: A Lenten calendar


Research Lent on the Net and find out why it's as long as it is, whether there's any basis in scripture for it, and what "Mardis gras" and "carnival" actually mean – plus a lot more, including some valuable reasons for doing something! You could start by clicking here:

Idea by: Richard Cooper

Lent quote: "The renewal of our natures is not done in a day. We have not only a new house to build up, but an old one to pull down." – George Whitefield
++++++++++ Reflections

O living flame of love, that tenderly wounds my soul, in it deepest centre! Since now you are not oppressive, now consummate! if it be your will: tear through the veil of this sweet encounter!
St John of the Cross
Living Flame, stanza 1.

Reading from the Desert Christians

A brother came to Abba Theodore and began to converse with him about things which he had never yet put into practice. So the old man said to him, 'You have not yet found a ship nor put your cargo aboard it and before you have sailed, you have already arrived at the city. Do the work first; then you will have the speed you are making now.'

Sayings of the Jewish Fathers (Pirqe Aboth)

2. Shime'on ha-Çaddiq was of the remnants of the Great Synagogue. He used to say, On three things the world is stayed; on the Thorah, and on the Worship, and on the bestowal of Kindnesses.

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

An Honest Being-With

Being with a friend in great pain is not easy. It makes us uncomfortable. We do not know what to do or what to say, and we worry about how to respond to what we hear. Our temptation is to say things that come more out of our own fear than out of our care for the person in pain. Sometimes we say things like "Well, you're doing a lot better than yesterday," or "You will soon be your old self again," or "I'm sure you will get over this." But often we know that what we're saying is not true, and our friends know it too.

We do not have to play games with each other. We can simply say: "I am your friend, I am happy to be with you." We can say that in words or with touch or with loving silence. Sometimes it is good to say: "You don't have to talk. Just close your eyes. I am here with you, thinking of you, praying for you, loving you."

From the Principles of the Third Society of St. Francis:

Day Fifteen - The First Way of Service (cont)

The heart of our prayer is the Eucharist, in which we share with other
Christians the renewal of our union with our Lord and Saviour in his
sacrifice, remembering his death and receiving his spiritual food.

God, by the life of blessed Francis you moved your people to a love of
simple things: may we, after his example, hold lightly to the things of this
world and store up for ourselves treasure in heaven; through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen


When I am praying the most eloquently, I am getting the least accomplished
in my prayer life. But when I stop getting eloquent and give God less
theology and shut up and just gaze upward and wait for God to speak to my
heart He speaks with such power that I have to grab a pencil and a notebook
and take notes on what God is saying to my heart." -A. W. Tozer

Upper Room Daily Reflection

WE MAY SEE that to live as Jesus did is to experience what it means to be beloved sons and daughters of God. The more we know our belovedness, the more freely we may live by the measure of Jesus’ own example in the power of loving humility and transforming mercy. Here lie the spiritual roots of forgiveness and reconciliation. But the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation can be as difficult to embrace as the notion of our belovedness.

- Marjorie J. Thompson
The Way of Forgiveness

From page 35 of The Way of Forgiveness, Participant’s Book by Marjorie J. Thompson.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection

"Spirituality of Subtraction"

The notion of a spirituality of subtraction comes from Meister Eckhart, the medieval Dominican mystic. He said the spiritual life has much more to do with subtraction than it does with addition. Yet I think Christians today are involved in great part in a spirituality of addition. The capitalist worldview is the only world most of us have ever known. We see reality, experiences, events, other people, things - in fact, everything - as objects for consumption. The nature of the capitalist mind is that things (and often people!) are there for me. Finally, even God becomes an object for our consumption. Remember the bumper sticker "I found it"? The Holy One becomes "it," a pronoun, a thing. Even the Lord becomes a consumer object that I can privately possess. Now that is surely heresy in any religion. You almost wonder if true spirituality is even possible in this culture. Everything gets turned around so that we're in the driver's sear: God, the Bible, the sacraments, the Church, people and prayer. Everything is there to foster my own ego and its need to feel good about itself.

from the Price of Peoplehood

From John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., Tradition Day by Day: Readings from Church Writers. Augustinian Press. Villanova, PA, 1994.

We must be ready to be crucified

So let us take our part in the Passover prescribed by the law, not in a literal way, but according to the teaching of the Gospel; not in an imperfect way, but perfectly; not only for a time, but eternally. Let us regard as our home the heavenly Jerusalem, not the earthly one; the city glorified by angels, not the one laid waste by armies. We are not required to sacrifice young bulls or rams, beasts with horns and hoofs that are more dead than alive and devoid of feeling; but instead, let us join the choirs of angels in offering God upon his heavenly altar a sacrifice of praise. We must now pass through the first veil and approach the second, turning our eyes toward the Holy of Holies. I will say more: we must sacrifice ourselves to God, each day and in everything we do, accepting all that happens to us for the sake of the Word, imitating his passion by our sufferings, and honoring his blood by shedding our own. We must be ready to be crucified.

Gregory Nazianzen, (329 - 389) was one of the three great Cappadocian Fathers whose preaching helped to restore the Nicene faith and led to its final acceptance by the Council of Constantinople in 381.

Daily Readings From "My Utmost for His Highest", Oswald Chambers


"And as they followed, they were afraid." Mark 10:32

At the beginning we were sure we knew all about Jesus Christ, it was a delight to sell all and to fling ourselves out in a hardihood of love; but now we are not quite so sure. Jesus is on in front and He looks strange: "Jesus went before them and they were amazed."

There is an aspect of Jesus that chills the heart of a disciple to the core and makes the whole spiritual life gasp for breath. This strange Being with His face "set like a flint" and His striding determination, strikes terror into me. He is no longer Counsellor and Comrade, He is taken up with a point of view I know nothing about, and I am amazed at Him. At first I was confident that I understood Him, but now I am not so sure. I begin to realize there is a distance between Jesus Christ and me; I can no longer be familiar with Him. He is ahead of me and He never turns round; I have no idea where He is going, and the goal has become strangely far off.

Jesus Christ had to fathom every sin and every sorrow man could experience, and that is what makes Him seem strange. When we see Him in this aspect we do not know Him, we do not recognize one feature of His life, and we do not know how to begin to follow Him. He is on in front, a Leader Who is very strange, and we have no comradeship with Him.

The discipline of dismay is essential in the life of discipleship. The danger is to get back to a little fire of our own and kindle enthusiasm at it (cf. Isaiah 1:10-11). When the darkness of dismay comes, endure until it is over, because out of it will come that following of Jesus which is an unspeakable joy.

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

Chapter 36: On the Sick

Before all things and above all things,
care must be taken of the sick,
so that they will be served as if they were Christ in person;
for He Himself said, "I was sick, and you visited Me" (Matt 25:36),
and, "What you did for one of these least ones, you did for Me" (Matt.25:40).
But let the sick on their part consider
that they are being served for the honor of God,
and let them not annoy their sisters who are serving them
by their unnecessary demands.
Yet they should be patiently borne with,
because from such as these is gained a more abundant reward.
Therefore the Abbess shall take the greatest care
that they suffer no neglect.

For these sick let there be assigned a special room
and an attendant who is God-fearing, diligent and solicitous.
Let the use of baths be afforded the sick
as often as may be expedient;
but to the healthy, and especially to the young,
let them be granted more rarely.
let the use of meat be granted to the sick who are very weak,
for the restoration of their strength;
but when they are convalescent,
let all abstain from meat as usual.

The Abbess shall take the greatest care
that the sick be not neglected by the cellarers or the attendants;
for she also is responsible for what is done wrongly by her disciples.


The rabbis say, "The purpose of maintaining the body in good health is to make it possible for you to acquire wisdom." Benedictine spirituality is about coming to a sense of the fullness of life. It is not about being self-destructive or living sour lives or dropping down pits of privacy so deep that no other ever dare intrude. Benedictine spirituality never gives up on life even though death is known to be the entry to its everlasting joy. Why? Because, the rabbi shows us, every day we have gives us another chance to become the real persons we are meant to be. Why? Because, the scripture says, to serve the sick is to serve the Christ.

The point for us all, perhaps, is never to give up on life and never to doubt that every bit of kindness, every tender touch we lay upon another in life can heal what might otherwise have died, certainly in them, perhaps even in ourselves.

Care for the sick, in the mind of Benedict, is not a simple warehousing process, though that in itself could have been a great contribution to a society without hospitals. Care for the sick, in Benedictine spirituality, is to be done with faith, with attention and with a care beyond the technical. The infirmarian is to be "concerned." Baths, a very important part of Roman therapy and hygiene in a hot and sticky climate, and red meat, a treat used only rarely in early monastic houses both because of its scarcity and because of its purported relationship to sexual agitation, are both given generously and recklessly. Care of the sick, you see, is done in the name of God and to the person of the suffering Christ. Nothing was too much. Nothing was to be spared. Nothing that could do good was to be called forbidden.

We have to ask ourselves, in a society of technological health care, how much of it we do with faith and lavish attention and depth of soul and a love that drives out repulsion. We have to ask ourselves how willing we are to take a little of our own energy in behalf of those who are no longer the life of the party, the help on the job? How much of our own precious time do we spend on those with little time left?

Church Fathers Lenten Reading Plan
Read Excerpts from the Church Fathers during Lent

St. Cyprian: On the Unity of the Church (Treatise I): Secs. 19-21

Thursday, March 15, 2007 Great Fast Apostle Aristoboulos, First
Bishop of Britain
6th Hour: Isaiah 28:14-22 1st Vespers: Genesis 10:32-11:9
2nd Vespers: Proverbs 13:19-14:6

The Cornerstone: Isaiah 28:14-22 LXX, especially vs. 16: "Behold, I lay
for the foundations of Zion a costly stone, a choice, a corner-stone, a
precious stone, for its foundations; and he that believes on him shall
by no means be ashamed." The present passage from Isaiah is the fourth
image portraying our Lord Jesus and His Kingdom. Written in prophetic
style rather than with an iconographer's palette and brush, the verses
reveal our Savior as a Cornerstone - the precious foundation stone of
the Church. As St. Nikolai of Zica declares: "This wonderful stone, my
brothers, is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. For if the Prophet had
thought it an ordinary stone, he would not have spoken of belief in
it." Therefore, in this verse is another instance of the Holy Spirit
providing to the People of God, through His Holy Prophet, a glimpse
forward in time to that eternal legacy that has now been revealed to us
fully in Christ Jesus (Col. 1:26).

In this instance, Isaiah offers a contrastive prophecy set against a
background of scathing reproof toward His own People. He reveals a dual
declaration from God: 1) a work of bitterness and wrath (Is. 28:21), and
2) of the laying of a precious foundation stone (vs. 16). The disparate
images highlight the significance of Him Who is the precious Cornerstone.

When reading this prophecy, hold in mind the immediate historical
conditions that prompted Isaiah to rebuke the men and princes of his day
(vs. 14). During Isaiah's time, the tiny kingdom of Judah lay between
two powerful empires, Assyria to the north, and Egypt to the south. In
his youth, Isaiah and all Judah watched as their sister state, Israel,
was plundered and its people deported and enslaved by the Assyrians. In
an earlier passage (Is. 10:5-14), Isaiah reports how Judah itself was
pauperized by heavy payments in tribute to the Assyrians. Still, in a
manifestly Divine intervention, the nation was spared utter destruction
(see 4 Kings 17 LXX).

Today's prophecy, written much later in Isaiah's life, follows upon a
period of national resurgence. During this later period, Assyria was
having problems at home and left Judah to her own devices. However, the
Assyrian threat loomed again under new Imperial leadership. In
response, the leaders of Judah were drawn to joining in a protective
alliance with Egypt - what Isaiah called "a covenant with Hades, and
agreements with death" (Is. 28:15). God immediately revealed that this
plan was a false hope against the "rushing storm" of Assyria (vs. 15).

The Lord of history consistently warns His People against reliance upon
human power and empires. His Kingdom is not of this world (Jn. 18:36).
The Church is to trust in Him alone for hope and salvation. God is very
direct about this - under both the Old and New Covenants.

In the present prophecy, the Lord says, it "shall be an evil hope" to
depend upon human power (Is. 28:19). Pleading against alliances, He
clearly warns: "And I will cause judgment to be for hope, and My
compassion shall be for just measures, and ye that trust vainly in
falsehood shall fall: for the storm shall by no means pass by you,
except it also take away your covenant of death, and your trust in Hades
shall by no means stand" (vss. 17,18).

What God always offers in place of human alliances is "a choice, a
corner-stone, a precious stone, for...foundations" (vs.16). This may
now be clearly seen illumined by the revelation, of Christ Jesus our
Savior. He is the impregnable, true foundation of Zion - the Church -
God's People. Christ our God, at His first coming, asked: "Have you
never read in the Scriptures: The stone which the builders rejected has
become the chief cornerstone?" (Mt. 21:42). The Church, illumined by
the Holy Spirit, continues to proclaim Jesus Christ as the true
Corner-stone, "and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded" (1
Pet. 2:6).

Be Thou our sure foundation to keep us safe from the man-destroying
enemy, O Lord!

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