Tuesday, March 20, 2007

20/03/07, week of 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 97, 99, [100]; Psalm 94, [95]; Jer. 17:19-27; Rom. 7:13-25; John 6:16-27

From Forward Day by Day:

John 6:16-27. The people were about to come and take him by force to make him king.

While most of us may not actively long to be king or queen, many would love to have the prestige and lifestyle of royalty. Small wonder that we have lottery tickets and television shows promising instant wealth and fleeting fame.

Once when I participated in a program designed to identify what mattered most to us, I wasn't surprised to find "family" and "spiritual life" heading my list. What took me by surprise was "recognition." I hadn't known it mattered, but it did.

And yet we follow a Savior who cautions those he heals, "Don't tell anyone" and who withdraws from those who would raise him up to be their king. Always he deflects praise and power to God. And as for lifestyle? The homeless claim him as one of their own. Knowing himself utterly secure as God's beloved child, Jesus doesn't need recognition from those around him; he doesn't crave wealth or power beyond the priceless love of God.

Rather than seeking earthly glory, may we ask God to help us know and cherish and live up to our royal stature as his adopted children, recognized and beloved.

Today we remember:

Psalm 23 or 1; 2 Corinthians 6:1-10; Matthew 6:24-33

Almighty God, who called Cuthbert from following the flock to be a shepherd of your people: Mercifully grant that, as he sought in dangerous and remote places those who had erred and strayed from your ways, so we may seek the indifferent and the lost, and lead them back to you; 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 Mukono (Uganda)

40 Ideas for Lent: A Lenten calendar


Pull the Christmas cards you received this year out of storage and put them in a bowl on your dining table. Select one card at each meal and pray for that person or family. (If you haven't kept the cards, find or rewrite your own Christmas card list.)

Idea by: Erin Etheredge

Lent quote: "Better is a single footstep in my Father's house than all the wealth of this world." – saying attributed to Jesus

A Celtic lenten Calendar

It is customary, Lord
to give something up
during the season of Lent
What would you have me do without?
I who have so much
Cream cakes?
The list is endless
and I could give up all those things
for the span of 40 days
quite easily and almost painlessly
But what difference would it make
other than making me feel 'holier'
that my friend who makes no such sacrifice

What would you have me do without?
I who have so much
I fear before I ask
that the answer might be 'yes'
and the giving up
would be all too real, Lord
it would be difficult
a real cross to carry for 40 days
and more?
++++++++++ Reflections

I open the Scriptures... then all appears clear, full of light... holiness appears easy.
St. Therese of the Child Jesus

Reading from the Desert Christians

The same amma said that a teacher ought to be a stranger to the desire for domination, vain-glory, and pride; one should not be able to fool him by flattery, nor blind him by gifts, nor conquer him by the stomach, nor dominate him by anger; but he should be patient, gentle and humble as far as possible; he must be tested and without partisanship, full of concern, and a lover of souls.

Sayings of the Jewish Fathers (Pirqe Aboth)

Hillel and Shammai received from them. Hillel said, Be of the disciples of Aharon; loving peace, and pursuing
peace; loving mankind, and bringing them nigh to the Thorah.

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

A Still Place in the Market

"Be still and acknowledge that I am God" (Psalm 46:10). These are words to take with us in our busy lives. We may think about stillness in contrast to our noisy world. But perhaps we can go further and keep an inner stillness even while we carry on business, teach, work in construction, make music, or organise meetings.

It is important to keep a still place in the "marketplace." This still place is where God can dwell and speak to us. It also is the place from where we can speak in a healing way to all the people we meet in our busy days. Without that still space we start spinning. We become driven people, running all over the place without much direction. But with that stillness God can be our gentle guide in everything we think, say, or do.

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

Day Twenty - The Third Way of Service, cont'd

Tertiaries endeavor to serve others in active work. We try to find expression for each of the three aims of the Order in our lives, and whenever possible actively help others who are engaged in similar work. The chief form of service which we have to offer is to reflect the love of Christ, who, in his beauty and power, is the inspiration and joy of our lives.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

ONLY THOSE WHO GO into the travail of today, bearing a seed within them, a seed of awareness of the heavenly dimensions of humanity, can return in joy. Where this seed of divine awareness is quickened and grows, there Calvary is enacted again in joy. … Each one of us has the seed of Christ within. In each of us the amazing and the dangerous seed of Christ is present. It is only a seed. It is very small, like the grain of mustard seed. …

But if we dare to take this awakened seed of Christ into the midst of the world’s suffering, it will grow. … In you is this seed. Do you not feel its quickening Life? Then, small though this seed be in you, sow your life into the furrows of the world’s suffering, and you will return in joy, and the world will arise in hope.

- Thomas Kelly
The Sanctuary of the Soul

From page 24 of The Sanctuary of the Soul: Selected Writings of Thomas Kelly, edited by Keith Beasley-Topliffe. Copyright © 1997 by The Upper Room.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection

"Our Daily Bread"

When Moses prays to God, "Yahweh, feed these people," Yahweh replies, "I will feed them. I will let manna drop from heaven but they are to pick up only enough to feed themselves for one day" (Exodus 16:4). The whole message of the desert is a message of continual dependence on God, minute-by-minute learning to trust in Providence. Some of them want to store up the manna in order to have some for tomorrow. They want to plan for the future, and allay their fears. Moses says, "No! Only enough for today. Yahweh will give you your daily bread. But some kept an excess for the following day, and it bred maggots and smelt foul" (Exodus 16:20). Instead we say, "Give us this day our daily bread." How strange these words sound to a people with savings accounts, insurance policies and three-year warranties, even on their toasters!

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.

Always ready to forgive

Who could listen to that wonderful prayer, so full of affection, love, and imperturbable calm—Father, forgive them—and not at once embrace his enemies with all his love? Father, he says, forgive them. Could any prayer be more full of gentleness and love?

Yet he added something more. It was not enough to pray for them: he wished also to excuse them. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. They are great sinners, yes, but they have little understanding. Therefore, Father, forgive them. They are nailing me to the cross, but they do not know who it is they are nailing to the cross. If they had known, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory. Therefore, Father, forgive them. They think it is a lawbreaker, an impostor claiming to be God, a seducer of the people. I have hidden my face from them, and they do not recognize my glory. Therefore, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

If we wish to experience fully the joy of loving our brothers and sisters, we must embrace with real love even our enemies. To prevent this fire of divine love from being cooled by the injuries we receive, let us keep the eyes of our soul always fixed on the serene patience of our beloved Lord and Savior.

Aelred of Rievaulx, (1109 - 1167) was a member of the Cistercian Order who later became abbot of Rievaulx and was noted for his theological and spiritual writings.

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


"Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?" Genesis 18:17

Its Delights. This chapter brings out the delight of real friendship with God as compared with occasional feelings of His presence in prayer. To be so much in contact with God that you never need to ask Him to show you His will, is to be nearing the final stage of your discipline in the life of faith. When you are rightly related to God, it is a life of freedom and liberty and delight, you are God's will, and all your common-sense decisions are His will for you unless He checks. You decide things in perfect delightful friendship with God, knowing that if your decisions are wrong He will always check; when He checks, stop at once.

Its Difficulties. Why did Abraham stop praying when he did? He was not intimate enough yet to go boldly on until God granted his desire, there was something yet to be desired in his relationship to God. Whenever we stop short in prayer and say - "Well, I don't know; perhaps it is not God's will," there is still another stage to go. We are not so intimately acquainted with God as Jesus was, and as He wants us to be - "That they may be one even as we are one." Think of the last thing you prayed about - were you devoted to your desire or to God? Determined to get some gift of the Spirit or to get at God? "Your Heavenly Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask Him." The point of asking is that you may get to know God better. "Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart." Keep praying in order to get a perfect understanding of God Himself.

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

Chapter 41: At What Hours the Meals Should Be Taken

From holy Easter until Pentecost
let the brothers take dinner at the sixth hour
and supper in the evening.

From Pentecost throughout the summer,
unless the monks have work in the fields
let them fast on Wednesdays and Fridays until the ninth hour;
on the other days let them dine at the sixth hour.
This dinner at the sixth hour shall be the daily schedule
if they have work in the fields
or the heat of summer is extreme;
the Abbot's foresight shall decide on this.

Thus it is that he should adapt and arrange everything
in such a way that souls may be saved
and that the brethren may do their work
without just cause for murmuring.

From the Ides of September until the beginning of Lent
let them always take their dinner at the ninth hour.

In Lent until Easter let them dine in the evening.
But this evening hour shall be so determined
that they will not need the light of a lamp while eating,
Indeed at all seasons
let the hour, whether for supper or for dinner, be so arranged
that everything will be done by daylight.


The Rule of Benedict divides the year's meal schedules into four parts. From Easter to Pentecost there are no fast days and the meals are taken at noon and before sundown. After Pentecost, Wednesdays and Fridays are fast days, as they were for all Christians of the period, and the meal, probably the only meal of the day was to be delayed, the Rule mandates, until about three o'clock. But the law is no sooner made until Benedictine spirituality raises its fresh and liberating head again and softens the prescription with "unless." Unless it would be too hard to do. Unless they are too tired to wait. Unless the day is too hot to add one more difficulty to it. Then, the abbot or prioress and only the abbot or prioress may decide to mitigate the Rule, to change the law, to allow the relaxation. And that is the issue. It is the abbot or prioress who decides what the change will be, not the individual monastic. Life, in other words, is not of our own choosing. The vagaries of life are not under our control. Circumstances change things and real spirituality demands that we be prepared at all times to accept them with faith and hope.

It isn't that Benedictine spirituality is meant to be lax, it is that it is meant to be sensible and it is meant to be serene. What is the use of making up difficulties when all we really have to do in life is to learn to bear well what must, under any circumstances, be borne.

The third period of the year, from September 13 to Ash Wednesday, was the period known as "the monastic Lent." Here, Benedictine spirituality called for a measure above and beyond the norm. To do simply what was required was not enough. Benedictine spirituality called for extra effort in the development of the spiritual life. It is an interesting insertion in a Rule that otherwise seems to be based on exceptions, mitigation, differences, basic Christian practice and the law of averages.

Indeed, Benedictine spirituality is clearly rooted in living ordinary life with extraordinary awareness and commitment, a characteristic, in fact, that is common to monasticism both East and West. As the Zen Masters teach: "One day a new disciple came up to the master Joshu. 'I have just entered the brotherhood,' the disciple said. 'and I am anxious to learn the first principle of Zen. Will you please teach it to me?' he asked. So Joshu said, 'Have you eaten your supper?' And the novice answered, 'Yes, I have eaten.' So Joshu said, 'Then now wash your bowl.'"

The first principle of Benedictinism, too, is to do what must be done with special care and special zeal so that doing it can change our consciousness and carve our souls into the kind of beauty that comes from simple things. It is so easy to go through life looking feverishly for special ways to find God when God is most of all to be found in doing common things with uncommon conscientiousness.


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

St. Athanasius: Life of Anthony: Chaps. 31-40

Tues, March 20, 2007 Great Fast Holy Fathers Slain at the
Monastery of Mar Sabbas
6th Hour: Isaiah 40:18-31 1st Vespers: Genesis 15:1-15
2nd Vespers: Proverbs 15:7-19

Pessimism: Isaiah 40:18-31 LXX, especially vs. 27: "Why hast thou
spoken, Israel, saying, My way is hid from God, and my God has taken
away my judgment, and has departed?" With this probing question, the
Prophet Isaiah challenged the ancient People of the Covenant for
complaining that God was unconcerned about their problems. They
believed God could be indifferent to His own People! But could the
happenings of His People be hidden from God?

The people's assertions disclose their disconnectedness from God. Of
course, for those who speak in this way, God might just as well not
exist. They expect nothing from Him and seek nothing from Him. How
well this view fits those who, believing in naturalism today, are ready
to make decisions and act without any reference to God. They assert
that, since He is neither measurable nor tangible, He is functionally
irrelevant and probably non-existent.

Isaiah rebuked his fellow countrymen for this kind of pessimism about
themselves, life, and God. He knew that, as a People, they bore the
name Israel from their forefather Jacob, a man who had wrestled and
prevailed with God, after which God had renamed him, "Israel" - meaning
"struggled with God." Isaiah was shocked! How can you say such things
as these? How can you be so negative? Is God an idol (vss. 18-20)?
Have you not seen that God is the Lord of men and of nations (vss.
21-24)? Look at the creation He fashioned and governs (vss. 25-26).
God has not withdrawn; rather, those who truly wait on Him shall be
renewed (vss. 28-31).

In the first three verses of today's reading, Isaiah targets Israel's
idolatry - absorption in things: "Surely by these kinds of remarks you
do not propose to adopt idolatry, do you?" He invites the discouraged
to compare the Lord with any god fashioned by human artisans, even the
best idols, made to last for centuries through the use of gold, silver
or "wood that will not rot" (vss.18-20). Isaiah implies, of course,
that idols do rot and fall apart over time. Investing one's primary
life energy in created things is madness, a point the Lord Jesus Himself
echoed: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole
world, and lose his own soul?" (Mk. 8:36).

Next, Isaiah chides his pessimistic countrymen: "Have ye not known the
foundations of the earth?" (vs. 21). God "comprehends the circle of the
earth" (vs. 22). He "appoints princes to rule as nothing" (vs. 23), and
He has blown upon them, and they are withered (vs. 24). Rulers are as
nothing: "a storm shall carry them away like sticks" (vs. 24).

Isaiah shares God's view of leaders that they are only for a season, and
he considers God's work as Creator: "Lift up your eyes on high, and see,
Who has displayed all these things? even He that brings forth His host
by number: He shall call them all by name by means of His great glory,
and by the power of His might" (vs. 26).

See how the verse quoted at the opening is the key to the whole of this
prophecy of Isaiah (vs. 27). Furthermore, see how, once the challenge
is met, the Prophet returns in the final verses to summarize what he has
called his readers to consider up to this point. But, in the latter
portion, all is focused on God: the Lord is everlasting (vs. 28). He is
the Creator of the ends of the earth (vs. 28). The everlasting God does
not faint as men do; rather, He gives power to the faint (vss. 29,30).
Since "there is no searching of His understanding" by human means (vs.
28), it is best for men to "wait on God;" for, when they do, "they shall
run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not hunger"(vs. 31).

Men fall into pessimism - whether in Isaiah's time or in the present -
because they do not wait upon Him. Let us give up all earthbound
fixation and worship the Lord of Heaven!

Come let us worship and fall down before Christ. Save us, O Lord, who
sing unto Thee!

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

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