Monday, March 19, 2007

19/03/07 week of the 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 89:1-18; Psalm 89:19-52; Jer. 16:10-21; Rom. 7:1-12; John 6:1-15

From Forward Day by Day:

Luke 2:41-52. Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover...the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.

Today, St. Joseph's Day, has always seemed to me a day to honor adoptive, step-, and foster fathers: a celebration and honoring of those throughout time who have tenderly nurtured children not biologically connected to them. Jesus, who speaks in today's reading of his other Father, is nevertheless grafted into Joseph's family as surely as we are grafted into the family of Abraham. As St. Paul asserts over and over, we are all adopted children of God, brothers and sisters of Christ and of one another.

This fluid, expansive, interwoven sense of the far-flung Christian family offers blessing to all of us living among blended, extended, seemingly unconventional configurations. And Joseph is our progenitor, our role model for nontraditional parenthood. He offers guidance and grace to all of us, but most especially to those who have said yes to parenthood after the fact.

May this indeed be a blessed Father's Day for you. May you know the deep peace and deep gratitude of God for the arduous, loving life you have chosen.

Today we remember:

St. Joseph
AM: Psalm 132; Isaiah 63:7-16; Matthew 1:18-25
PM: Psalm 34; 2 Chronicles 6:12-17; Ephesians 3:14-21

O God, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and the spouse of his virgin mother: Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to your commands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of Muhabura (Uganda)

40 Ideas for Lent: A Lenten calendar


Stop complaining for a whole day. Don't complain about the weather, the bus being late, your boss, your lack of sleep, the coffee being lukewarm, the state of your daughter's bedroom, the government... you name it. Instead, smile, pray, or just change the topic.

Idea by: shoewoman

Lent quote: "Often we combat our evil thoughts

A Celtic lenten Calendar

The warmth
of the sun's embrace
the gentle breeze swept in
by incoming tide
the rhythm of seasons
of new birth
death and recreation
All these speak so clearly
of your love
your power
and your beauty
All are expressions
of your creativity
and more importantly of yourself
As an artist might share his personality
within each brushstroke
so within the myriad colours
of a butterfly's wing
you share the exuberance of your love

That we can glimpse you
within creation is a beautiful thought
but also tells us
that you desire to be seen
to be found and known
Open our eyes, Lord
as we walk through this world
feel the wind and sunshine
see the majesty of creation unfolding before our eyes
Help us
to see you
++++++++++ Reflections

It is God Himself who wishes to be the riches, comfort, and delightful glory of the religious.
St John of the Cross

Reading from the Desert Christians

Amma Theodora said, 'Let us strive to enter by the narrow gate, Just as the trees, if they have not stood before the winter's storms cannot bear fruit, so it is with us; this present age is a storm and it is only through many trials and temptations that we can obtain an inheritance in the kingdom of heaven.'

Sayings of the Jewish Fathers (Pirqe Aboth)

Abtalion said, Ye wise, be guarded in your words; perchance ye may incur the debt of exile, and be exiled to the place of evil waters; and the disciples that come after you may drink and die, and the Name of Heaven be profaned.

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

The Infinite Value of Life

Some people live long lives, some die very young. Is a long life better than a short life? What truly counts is not the length of our lives but their quality. Jesus was in his early thirties when he was killed. Thérése de Lisieux was in her twenties when she died. Anne Frank was a teenager when she lost her life. But their short lives continue to bear fruit long after their deaths.

A long life is a blessing when it is well lived and leads to gratitude, wisdom, and sanctity. But some people can live truly full lives even when their years are few. As we see so many young people die of cancer and AIDS let us do everything possible to show our friends that, though their lives may be short, they are of infinite value.

The Merton Reflection for the Week of March 19, 2007
“It is precisely because it is public in the classical or “political” sense of the word that the liturgy enables us to discover and to express the deepest meaning of Christian personalism. We must first emerge from the private realm, the “household” which is the realm of necessity and the proper domain of children who have not yet a mind of their own and who are completely absorbed in their own bodily and emotional needs. We must be able to put aside the “economic” concern with our superficial selves, and emerge into the open light of the Christian polis where each one lives not for oneself but for others, taking upon oneself the responsibility for the whole. Of course no one assumes this responsibility merely in obedience to arbitrary whim or to the delusion that one is of oneself capable of taking the troubles of the whole Assembly on one’s own shoulders. But one emerges “in Christ” to share the labor and worship of the whole Christ, and in order to do this one must sacrifice one’s own superficial and private self. The paradoxical fruit of this sacrifice of one’s trivial and “selfish” (or simply immature) self is that one is then enabled to discover one’s deep self, in Christ."
Seasons of Celebration [SC]. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1950: 25

Thought to Remember:
"The highest paradox of Christian personalism is for an individual to be “found in Christ Jesus” and thus “lost” to all that can be regarded, in a mundane way, as one’s “self.” This means to be at the same time one’s self and Christ."
SC: 26

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

Day Eighteen - The Second Way of Service, cont'd

As well as the devotional study of Scripture, we all recognize our Christian responsibility to pursue other branches of study, both sacred and secular. In particular, some of us accept the duty of contributing, through research and writing, to a better understanding of the church's mission in the world: the application of Christian principles to the use and distribution of wealth; questions concerning justice and peace; and of all other questions concerning the life of faith.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

TO BE HUMAN means living a life of ups and downs, experiencing the full range of emotions from great joy to great sorrow. To resist sorrow, pain, anxiety, and confusion is tantamount to refusing to be human, and we lose much rich experience and closeness to God when we refuse to be our full selves.

- Sarah Parsons
A Clearing Season

From page 18 of A Clearing Season by Sarah Parsons. Copyright © 2006 by Sarah Parsons.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection

"Keep a Blank Sheet Ready"

In Christianity, seeking emptiness is for the sake of an in-filling, for the sake of a readiness or an openness. It is creating the empty womb of Mary so that Christ can be conceived within it. Seeking some sort of transcendental empty consciousness state, I agree, is not the goal of Christian prayer. But our goal is detaching from the private ego, the private self, so that Christ can do what he wants with us. Whatever word God wants to speak to me, I'm out of the way. Emptying, for us, is for the sake of fullness. But that fullness is something we don't even know we are waiting for; we don't know how to define it or to say when we've got it. And when we've got it, we can't hold onto it, or it will become an idol. I do most of my writing right in front of my typewriter. I just sit there. And sometimes I sit for I don't know how long so that when the words come I'm ready to type. When it comes, I've got the paper in front of me. I try to keep that blank sheet as much as possible in my life, and it's a blank sheet you've got to seek again every day. Get your own agenda, hurts, neediness and fears out of the way, so that you've offered God a blank sheet to write on when it's time to write some words on your soul.

from Catholic Agitator, "Finding a Place for Prayer"

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

Joseph, the father of Jesus

Who can doubt that when Joseph reached the end of his life, his divine foster child in his turn carried that saintly father from this world to the next, to Abraham's bosom, to be taken to himself in glory on the day of his ascension?

A saint who had loved so deeply during his life could not but die of love. Unable to love his dear Jesus as he wished amid the distractions of this life, and having completed the service required by our Lord's tender years, it only remained for him to say to the Father: "I have finished the work which you gave me to do"; and to the Son: "My child, to my hands your heavenly Father entrusted your body on the day when you came into this world; now to your hands I entrust my spirit on the day I leave this world."

Such, I believe, was the death of this great patriarch, the man chosen to perform for the Son of God the tenderest and most loving offices possible, apart from those fulfilled by his heaven-sent wife, the true mother of that same Son.

Francis de Sales, (1567 - 1622), bishop of Geneva, worked zealously to bring the people of Chablais from Calvinism to Catholicism. Together with his friend Saint Jane Frances de Chantal he founded the Order of the Visitation.

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


He went out, not knowing whither he went." Hebrews 11:8

In the Old Testament, personal relationship with God showed itself in separation, and this is symbolized in the life of Abraham by his separation from his country and from his kith and kin. To day the separation is more of a mental and moral separation from the way that those who are dearest to us look at things, that is, if they have not a personal relationship with God. Jesus Christ emphasized this (see Luke 14:26).

Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One Who is leading. It is a life of Faith, not of intellect and reason, but a life of knowing Who makes us "go." The root of faith is the knowledge of a Person, and one of the biggest snares is the idea that God is sure to lead us to success.

The final stage in the life of faith is attainment of character. There are many passing transfigurations of character; when we pray we feel the blessing of God enwrapping us and for the time being we are changed, then we get back to the ordinary days and ways and the glory vanishes. The life of faith is not a life of mounting up with wings, but a life of walking and not fainting. It is not a question of sanctification; but of something infinitely further on than sanctification, of faith that has been tried and proved and has stood the test. Abraham is not a type of sanctification, but a type of the life of faith, a tried faith built on a real God. "Abraham believed God."

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

Chapter 40: On the Measure of Drink

"Everyone has her own gift from God,
one in this way and another in that" (1 Cor. 7:7).
It is therefore with some misgiving
that we regulate the measure of others' sustenance.
Nevertheless, keeping in view the needs of the weak,
we believe that a hemina of wine a day is sufficient for each.
But those to whom God gives the strength to abstain
should know that they will receive a special reward.

If the circumstances of the place,
or the work
or the heat of summer
require a greater measure,
the superior shall use her judgment in the matter,
taking care always
that there be no occasion for surfeit or drunkenness.
We read
it is true,
that wine is by no means a drink for monastics;
but since the monastics of our day cannot be persuaded of this
let us at least agree to drink sparingly and not to satiety,
because "wine makes even the wise fall away" (Eccles. 19:2).

But where the circumstances of the place are such
that not even the measure prescribed above can be supplied,
but much less or none at all,
let those who live there bless God and not murmur.
Above all things do we give this admonition,
that they abstain from murmuring.


The Rule of Benedict does not pretend to know the sacrifices that each of us needs to make in life. A tale from the Sufi may explain why, in the face of multiple spiritual disciplines, all of which specify many and sundry exercises as basic to the spiritual life, Benedict avoids this road of defined penances. "How shall we ever change," the disciples asked, "if we have no goals?" And the master said, "Change that is real is change that is not willed. Face reality and unwilled change will happen."

It is so easy to make cosmetic changes in the name of religion. It is so easy to make up rules and keep them so that we can feel good about doing something measurable in the spiritual life. We can fast and fast and fast from food or drink and nothing changes because fasting from food is not what we really need at that moment to turn our hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. We can kneel and kneel and kneel but nothing changes because kneeling is not what we need to soften our souls just then. We can fast and kneel and tithe and nothing changes because we do not really want anything to change.

Growth is not an accident. Growth is a process. We have to want to grow. We have to will to move away the stones that entomb us in ourselves. We have to work at uprooting the weeds that are smothering good growth in ourselves. Benedict doesn't tell us how much to eat. He simply provides the food and trusts us to make a choice to discipline ourselves somehow, someway, so that we do not sink into a mire of self-satisfaction so thick that there is no rescue for our sated souls.

The Rule of Benedict devotes itself more to the virtue of moderation than it does to the anesthetizing of the soul that can come with mortification. To forego a thing completely is to prepare to forget it. If I never eat another piece of chocolate, I may forget all about chocolate but I may also soon substitute something even more dangerous for its taste: drugs, consumerism, a hardened selfishness. To do something commonly but to do it in right proportion, on the other hand, is to win the struggle with it every day. To have one handful of salted peanuts, one piece of chocolate, one glass of wine in the midst of plenty, one car in a culture that counts its wealth in two-car garages, now that is mortification. Benedict knows that culture dictates the use of many things in life. What he cares about is that we control them rather than allowing them to control us.

If Benedictine spirituality understands anything about life at all, it understands the corrosive effects of constant complaining. Complaining is the acid that shrivels our own souls and the soul of the community around us, as well. Complaining is what shapes our mental set. Feelings, psychology tells us, do not affect thoughts. Thoughts affect feelings. What we allow ourselves to think is what we are really allowing ourselves to feel. When we learn how to correct our thought processes, then, we learn not only how to stabilize our own emotions but how to change the environment around us at the same time. What we see as negative we make negative and feel negative about. What we are willing to think about in a positive way becomes positive.

Complaining, in other words, undermines the hope of a community and smothers possibility in a group. The whiner, the constant critic, the armchair complainer make an office, a family, a department, a community a polluted place to be. What we accept wholeheartedly that fails, we can always correct. What we condemn to failure before we have ever really tried to accept it, is not corrected; it is doomed to an untimely and, more than likely, an unnecessary death.

Benedictine spirituality tells us to open our hearts and our minds to let grace come in from unlikely places, without preplanning and prejudgments. "When there is no desire," the Tao Te Ching instructs, "all things are at peace."

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

St. Athanasius: Life of Anthony: Chaps. 21-30

Pride: Isaiah 37:21-29 LXX, especially vs. 23: "Whom hast thou
reproached and provoked? and against whom hast thou lifted up thy voice?
and hast thou not lifted up thine eyes on high against the Holy One of
Israel?" St. John Cassian teaches that "when the vice of pride has
become master of our wretched soul, it acts like some harsh tyrant who
has gained control of a great city and destroys it completely, razing it
to its foundations." He, like Isaiah, could well have been referring to
Sennacherib, King of Assyria (705-681 BC). Let us learn from God and
the holy Prophet Isaiah what the source of pride is, how pride destroys
fellowship with others, and, above all, how pride invites God's rebuke
and leads to the ultimate destruction of the proud.

This present reading amply demonstrates that pride begins with a
loss of awareness. The king of Assyria could accurately list his
military conquests west to the Mediterranean and south along the coast
into Egypt. In mountains, the desert, and across the branches of the
Nile at its delta - his armies triumphed (vss. 24,25). He conquered
all. However, as St. John Climacus says, "It is shameful to be proud of
the adornments that are not your own." Pride in our successes deceive
us. How readily one forgets our utter dependence on God. As the Saint
of the Ladder reminds us: "only such victories as you have won without
the cooperation of the body have been accomplished by your efforts,
because the body is not yours, but a work of God."

The Lord Jesus corrected Pilate for his prideful claim: "I have the
power to crucify You and the power to release You," by pointing out to
the august procurator, "You could have no power at all against Me unless
it had been given you from above" (Jn. 19:10,11). And God said the same
to Sennacherib: "I manifested My purpose of desolating nations in their
strong holds" (Is. 37:26). Beloved, let us consider how the Apostle
Paul's questions applies to us: "And what do you have that you did not
receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you
had not received it?" (1 Cor. 4:7). Let us seek and destroy such pride
in ourselves, thanking God, for He gives the grace of to remember our
dependence upon Him.

Pride truly makes one lonely, for the proud person is cut off from the
warmth of human companionship. As the Lord spoke concerning
Sennacherib: "The virgin daughter of Zion has despised thee, and mocked
thee; the daughter of Jerusalem has shaken her head at thee." (Is.
37:22). "The daughter of Jerusalem" can be understood in three
important ways: first, as the community of Jerusalem - which certainly
despised the proud Assyrian conqueror, for the people of Judah
experienced bitter impoverishment because of the tribute he extracted
from them - what today we call "protection money." There was no
fellowship between him and Jerusalem.

Second, if the verse is applied to others and not tied historically to
the king of Assyria, the daughter of Zion may be understood as certain
members of the Church. Let us remember that the proud, caught in the
clutches of the demon of pride, certainly "cannot drink the cup of the
Lord and the cup of demons" (1 Cor. 10:21). As the Apostle Paul says,
they drink judgment for not recognizing the Body (1 Cor. 11:29). Third,
and finally, the proud cannot expect their pleas for prayer to be
answered by the humble Virgin of the New Jerusalem - the Holy Theotokos.

The mocking, the reviling, the raised imperious voice, and the haughtily
lifted eyes which mark the proud, may seem directed to their fellow
human beings, but God says that pride rages against Him, and that men's
arrogance comes up to Him (Is. 37:29). Hence, the destiny of the proud
is Divine rebuke, and - short of true repentance - certainly is
destruction (vs. 29). Let us turn quickly away from pride and not dally
with it, lest we be given to the merciless (Prov. 5:9).

My eyes are weighed down by loathsome pride, but do Thou accept me
penitent, O Lord.

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

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