Sunday, March 18, 2007

18/03/07 4th Sunday in Lent

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Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today's Scripture

Psalm 34 or 34:1-8; Joshua (4:19-24); 5:9-12; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Luke 15:11-32

From Forward Day by Day:

ke 15:11-32. But when he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him.

The prodigiously loving father in the parable named for his spendthrift son exemplifies what the writer Joseph Nassal calls "premeditated mercy." Before he even knew his son's financial or emotional state, the father embraced him in the arms of mercy. In the same careful way one might premeditate revenge--plan and plot and refine and imagine--so this father has premeditated a merciful welcome for his missing son.

I take deep comfort knowing that God is always waiting with sheltering mercy to welcome us home, no matter how willfully or how far we've followed the devices and desires of our own selfish hearts. What's much harder to face is God's call to live as the father in this story: to plan ways to offer mercy and welcome to others, even (especially) to those who have hurt us.

I'd rather stay sheltered in the Father's arms. My heart is too small and my arms too heavy to be the one offering such grace. And yet we are called daily to plan ways of welcome, to be as merciful and generous as the Father, to follow our Lord Jesus into the paths of reconciliation--and ultimate rejoicing.

Today we remember:

Today is known as Laetere, Mothering, Refreshment or Rose Sunday!

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of Mpwapwa (Tanzania)

40 Ideas for Lent: A Lenten calendar


A Celtic lenten Calendar

++++++++++ Reflections

In this temple of God, in this Mansion of His, He and the soul alone have fruition of each other in the deepest silence.
St Teresa of Jesus
Interior Castle, III.3

Reading from the Desert Christians

Abba Theodor said, 'Privation of food mortifies the body of the monk.' Another old man said, 'Vigils mortify it still more.'

Sayings of the Jewish Fathers (Pirqe Aboth)

Shema'iah and Abtalion received from them. Shema'iah said, Love work; and hate lordship; and make not thyself known to the government.

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

Coming Together in Poverty

There are many forms of poverty: economic poverty, physical poverty, emotional poverty, mental poverty, and spiritual poverty. As long as we relate primarily to each other's wealth, health, stability, intelligence, and soul strength, we cannot develop true community. Community is not a talent show in which we dazzle the world with our combined gifts. Community is the place where our poverty is acknowledged and accepted, not as something we have to learn to cope with as best as we can but as a true source of new life.

Living community in whatever form - family, parish, twelve-step program, or intentional community - challenges us to come together at the place of our poverty, believing that there we can reveal our richness.

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

Day Nineteen - The Third Way of Service - Work

Jesus took on himself the form of a servant. He came not to be served, but to serve. He went about doing good: healing the sick, preaching good news to the poor, and binding up the broken hearted.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

MAKE US LIKE THE WIND — ever-moving and ever moving others. And with joy we will dance with the leaves. In submission we will linger in the shade, cooling the skin of those scorched by the sun’s heat. In awe we will pause and be still enough to hover over creation, admiring your world and waiting for your command. And when you move us, we will fly with more strength, reminding people that you are present even in times you may seem invisible. Breathe into our souls, Lord, and make us like the wind, like your Holy Spirit — in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

- Ciona D. Rouse
The Africana Worship Book

From page 31 of The Africana Worship Book: Year A, edited by Valerie Bridgeman Davis and Safiyah Fosua. Copyright © 2006 by Discipleship Resources.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection

"I Will Be With You"

Moses said to God, "Who am I to go to Pharaoh and bring the people of Israel out of Egypt?" (Exodus 3:11). The Lord answers, "I shall be with you." That's all. Simply, I'll be with you! He wouldn't tell Moses how to do it. He doesn't give him a timetable, any directions, simply - "I'll be with you" (3:12). Moses's power is the presence of the Lord. That's all! In every religious experience in the Bible, a person comes to an experience of God and god says, simply, I shall be with you. I will do it. Trust me. The directions come as you walk the journey. The word is not fully given until the first steps are taken. This is perfectly borne out as the Hebrews journey through the desert. Moses said to Yahweh's face, in his fourth attempt to get out of the job, "I am slow of speech. Why should Pharaoh listen to me?" (Exodus 4:10). Yahweh again comes back to him and says, I've given you the command. Go ahead. I will be with you. Do it! (4:12).

from The Great Themes of Scripture

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

esus gave up his life not by compulsion, nor was he put to death by murderous violence, but of his own accord. Hear what he says: I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again. He came therefore of his own set purpose to his passion, rejoicing in his noble deed, smiling at the crown, cheered by the salvation of humankind, not ashamed of the cross for it was to save the world. For it was not common man who suffered, but God in man's nature, striving for the prize of his patience.

Do not rejoice in the cross in time of peace only, but hold fast to the same faith in time of persecution also; do not be a friend of Jesus in time of peace and his foe in time of war. You receive now the remission of your sins, and the gifts of the king's spiritual bounty; when war shall come strive nobly for your king. Jesus, the sinless, was crucified for you; and will you not be crucified for him who was crucified for you? You are not bestowing a favor, for you have first received; but you are returning a favor, repaying your debt to him who was crucified for you on Golgotha.

Cyril of Jerusalem,(316 - 386), bishop of Jerusalem, has left us a precious legacy of twenty-four catechetical sermons.

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


"Perfecting holiness in the fear of God." 2 Corinthians 7:1

"Having therefore these promises." I claim the fulfilment of God's promises, and rightly, but that is only the human side; the Divine side is that through the promises I recognize God's claim on me. For instance, am I realizing that my body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, or have I a habit of body that plainly will not bear the light of God on it? By sanctification the Son of God is formed in me, then I have to transform my natural life into a spiritual life by obedience to Him. God educates us down to the scruple. When He begins to check, do not confer with flesh and blood, cleanse yourself at once. Keep yourself cleansed in your daily walk.

I have to cleanse myself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit until both are in accord with the nature of God. Is the mind of my spirit in perfect agreement with the life of the Son of God in me, or am I insubordinate in intellect? Am I forming the mind of Christ, Who never spoke from His right to Himself, but maintained an inner watchfulness whereby He continually submitted His spirit to His Father? I have the responsibility of keeping my spirit in agreement with His Spirit, and by degrees Jesus lifts me up to where He lived - in perfect consecration to His Father's will, paying no attention to any other thing. Am I perfecting this type of holiness in the fear of God? Is God getting His way with me, and are other people beginning to see God in my life more and more?

Be serious with God and leave the rest gaily alone. Put God first literally.

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

Chapter 39: On the Measure of Food

We think it sufficient for the daily dinner,
whether at the sixth or the ninth hour,
that every table have two cooked dishes
on account of individual infirmities,
so that he who for some reason cannot eat of the one
may make his meal of the other
Therefore let two cooked dishes suffice for all the brethren;
and if any fruit or fresh vegetables are available,
let a third dish be added.

Let a good pound weight of bread suffice for the day,
whether there be only one meal or both dinner and supper.
If they are to have supper,
the cellarer shall reserve a third of that pound,
to be given them at supper.

But if it happens that the work was heavier,
it shall lie within the Abbot's discretion and power,
should it be expedient,
to add something to the fare.
Above all things, however,
over-indulgence must be avoided
and a monk must never be overtaken by indigestion;
for there is nothing so opposed to the Christian character
as over-indulgence
according to Our Lord's words,
"See to it that your hearts be not burdened
with over-indulgence" (Luke 21:34).

Young boys
shall not receive the same amount of food as their elders,
but less;
and frugality shall be observed in all circumstances.

Except the sick who are very weak,
let all abstain entirely
from eating the flesh of four-footed animals.


Chapter 39 is a chapter on generosity and trust that flies in the face of a tradition of stern and demanding asceticisms. Benedict of Nursia never takes food away from the community. On the contrary, he assures himself that the fare will always be ample and will always be simple but pleasing. These were working monastics who needed energy to toil and peace to pray. Benedict decides that food is not to be the penance of their lives.

Everybody needs something in life to make the rest of life doable and uplifting. The important thing in the spiritual life is that while we are creating penances for ourselves to build up our moral fiber we are also providing possibilities for ourselves to build up our spiritual joy.

Exceptions. Exceptions. Exceptions. The Rule of Benedict is full of rules that are never kept, always shifting, forever being stretched. Only two Benedictine principles are implied to be without exception: kindness and self-control. The abbot is to make exceptions always; the monastic is never to take advantage of them or to lose control, to slip into dissipation, to fail to keep trying to keep the mind in charge of the body. Soft living, slouch-heartedness, a dried up soul is not what gives life meaning. It is stretching ourselves that keeps us supple and keeps us trim. We believe it about the body. We are inclined to overlook it in the soul. Let them have what they need, the Rule says, but let them forego what they don't so that they can run through life with their bodies unburdened and their souls unsurfeited. It is good, clean living that Benedictine spirituality is about, living that keeps us young in heart and sharp of vision, living that has something for which to strive.

The meat of four-footed animals was not part of the monastic diet because it was thought to heighten the animal facet of human nature. In a society whose philosophy was highly dualistic and whose world separated out neatly into things that were of the spirit and things that were of the flesh, the consideration was a serious one. Monastic life was about higher things and nothing was to be allowed to interfere with that.

The question for the modern world has seldom been what effect diet has on spirit--though interest in the field is certainly growing--but we have come to some conclusions about other things. We do know that colors, weather, light, environment, all affect the spirit. Too much of anything, we have discovered, can weigh us down. Each of us needs to fast from something to bring ourselves to the summit of our spiritual powers. The question is whether or not we have lost a sense of the value of fasting or do we simply fill ourselves, glut ourselves, without limit, without end, with the useless and the disturbing?.

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

Sunday, March 18, 2007 Great Fast Tone 7 Sunday of St.
John of the Ladder
Kellia: Wisdom 1:16-2:22 Epistle: Hebrews 6:13-20 Gospel: St.
Matthew 9:17-31

Saint John Klimakos: Wisdom 1:16-2:22 LXX, especially vs. 13: "He
professeth to have the knowledge of God: and he calleth himself the
child of the Lord." As we continue toward the radiance of Pascha, the
Church urges us to "honor John, that pride of ascetics, that angel on
earth, that man of God in heaven....[who], planted in the house of
God...flourished with justice; and like a cedar tree in the
wilderness...caused the flock of Christ to grow." The monastic
community of the Holy Transfiguration in Brookline, Massachusetts, has
given us a superb English translation of St John's Ladder of Divine
Ascent. In their Introduction, the monks summarize the life of our holy
father in these words: St. John "lived and struggled for a whole
lifetime on the God-trodden Mountain of Sinai, having entered the
monastic struggles while but a youth in his teens. For forty years he
lived as a hermit at Thola, about five miles from the monastery. Later
he became the abbot of Sinai....He lived to the age of eighty, having
reposed in the Lord in the year 603."

The Wisdom of Solomon provides a searing profile of the godless of every
age, including our own, who stand in marked contrast to the truly pious
Faithful like the righteous John. From Solomon's negative profile, we
may develop an inverse and luminous portrait of this deified Saint of
God (see 2 Pet. 1:4) and of the true Faith he revealed - as from a
photographic negative.

The ungodly confront us with the depressing conclusion that this life is
only "short and tedious" (vs. 1), while St. John reveals the "bliss of
virtues and good deeds"- speaking as one who "willingly left the things
of the world...for the sake of the future Kingdom" (Step 1:5).

Those who hold a somber view of human life and destiny, as do the
secularized of this world, live in sad resignation and are forced in
their deformed logic to conclude that "there is no remedy: neither [is]
there any man known to have returned from the grave " (vs. 1).

However, John, "that man of God in heaven," discloses "the Heaven of the
mind within the heart" (Step 29:2), a pure dispassion that is "the
harbinger of the general resurrection" (Step 29:7). He provides a
glimpse into the ultimate restoration of human life that the Lord Jesus
first revealed by His Resurrection, verifying for all men God's true
promise of eternal life.

The poor people of our godless age, whose light is the wisdom of mere
mortals, contend that "we shall be hereafter as though we had never
been" (vs. 2). Still, we are blessed by the prayers of the "righteous
John of perpetual memory [who] ceasest not to intercede for our sakes."

The majority of this age have "exchanged the truth of God for the lie"
(Rom. 1:25) and flood the media with invitations to join them: "Come on
therefore, let us enjoy the good things that are present: and let us
speedily use the creatures like as in youth." (Wis. 2:6). The wise
John, however, "didst turn aside from worldly luxury because it is
loathsome; and emaciating [his] body with abstinence...didst renew the
power of [his] soul...with heavenly glory."

Advancing many ideologies and banners, the ungodly of this age live by a
common, shared rule: "Let our strength be the law of justice: for that
which is feeble is found to be nothing worth" (vs. 11); but John - that
beacon of mystical light - teaches us to reap virtues with fasting and
prayer that leave the body weak but "renew the power...of the soul"
(Step. 24:10).

Yes, this present evil age is ready to "lie in wait for the righteous;
because he is not for our turn, and he is clean contrary to our doings"
Thus it was that the world tested Christ with "despitefulness and
torture," only to find Him meek and patient. Still, they condemned Him
"to a shameful death" (vs. 12) and have done so to many who have
followed in His way.

With rivers of tears thou hast made the barren desert fertile and from
thy heart thy labors have borne fruit an hundredfold, O holy father,
John: pray to Christ our God for our salvation.

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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