Sunday, March 09, 2008

Daily Meditation 09/03/08



Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today's Scripture

AM Psalm 118; PM Psalm 145
Exod. 3:16-4:12; Rom. 12:1-21; John 8:46-59

From Forward Day by Day:

Ezekiel 37:1-14. I am going to bring you up from your graves, O my people.

The readings today--Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, Paul's conviction that God who raised Jesus will "give life to our mortal bodies also"--are strong resurrection promises. But to my mind Ezekiel's Valley of Dry Bones is one of the most stirring visions in all the Bible of God's power over death.

Here there is no pallid philosophical notion of the immortality of the soul, no Gnostic nonsense about disembodied spirits being more valuable to God
than whole persons: this ancient story affirms God's sovereignty over all of human life, forever--it is a fierce song of joy to the resurrection of the body.

Can these dry bones live? Yes. They come rattling together, and are covered with sinews and flesh, and then "the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude."

"I am going to bring you up from your graves, O my people," God promises. "I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live."

As we move this week closer to Jesus' suffering and death, may we remember that our hope is nothing less than being raised as whole persons to eternal life with him.

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer we pray for the Diocese of Bolivia (Southern Cone)

A Celtic Lent:

Encounter with God

5. "God is encountered in the ordinary. "Like the ancient Hebrews, the Celts were earthy people who led simple lives. Believing God was involved in all ordinary events of their lives, they prayed constantly asking God to bless whatever they were doing. They had no hesitation in asking God to bless them with successful crops, good food and drink, safe homes and warm fires, and even good sex. These prayers often asked for a particular grace for the one praying as evidenced in this prayer accompanying the kindling of the hearth in the morning: 'Kindle in my heart within a fire of love for my neighbor. May the light of love shine out to my foe, my friend and my kindred.'

For a Celtic Lent: "Surround the routine things of your life with a prayer. As much as possible follow Paul's advice to 'pray constantly,' lifting each thing you do and each person you meet to God for blessing. Bless your children as they leave for school, your colleagues as they work, other commuters on the road. Say a blessing each day for one of the common, everyday things in your life, and ask that as you are blessed, you may in turn be a blessing" to all you come in contact with this Lent, as the days lengthen into Easter.

"Almighty God, your Son fasted forty days in the wilderness, and was tempted as we are but did not sin. Give us grace to direct our lives in obedience to your Spirit, that as you know our weakness, we may know your power to save; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen." (Prayer of the Day, First Sunday in Lent. Book of Common Worship for the Presbyterian Church, USA).

Speaking to the Soul:

Matrix of love

Daily Reading for March 9 • The Fifth Sunday in Lent

The account of the raising of Lazarus is a wonder marveled at by generations of Christians. It speaks of God’s redemptive action in the midst of human life, of divine fulfillment of the ancient covenant in the person of Jesus. It proclaims Jesus as the Christ, the fount of eternal life.

Beyond this, the Johannine passage is an incredibly rich mine of images and ideas that can enliven its hearers. It contains the poignant account of Jesus’ friendship with this family, the encounter with the weeping Mary with her distraught accusation—“If you had been here”—and the episode of Jesus’ tearful response to her grief. Even more strikingly, it contains Martha’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. Except for the confession of Peter found in Matthew 16:16 (and the confession of Andrew to Peter in John 1:41), there is no other comparable statement of faith discovered in the gospels. For the early church, to confess Christ in this way was the mark of an apostle. Thus we have here a somewhat lost tradition, apparently current in the community from which the Gospel of John comes, of Martha as the first witness to Jesus as the resurrection, the one who brings new life.

The Lazarus passage speaks eloquently to me of hope and healing, especially as it is discovered in the communities of friendship in which we find ourselves. It is a Gospel that speaks of tears and compassion and the empathetic suffering we share with one another, a suffering which raises us beyond our own small sorrows and limited vision. It is a Gospel that proclaims the miracle of renewal that is discovered as we allow ourselves to know our interdependence. Our personal lifelessness, our private wounds are made whole as we tenderly touch and are touched by one another.

This late Lenten Sunday is one in which we enter into the mystery of pain and brokenness, both our own and the world’s, to discover that we are not alone, that what seems hopeless is in fact hope-filled, that what appears dead can spring forth into life. It happens because we are embedded in a wider, more sustaining matrix of love than we can possibly imagine.

From The Rising: Living the Mysteries of Lent, Easter, and Pentecost by Wendy M. Wright (Upper Room Books, 1994).

Spiritual Practice of the Day

Make spiritual hay wherever you go. If and when you see or hear examples of good behavior, make haste to imitate them.
— Thomas a Kempis in The Imitation of Christ translated by William Griffin

To Practice This Thought: Find a spiritual mentor — alive or dead.
++++++++++ Reflections

I should like to respond by spending my earthly life as Our Lady did ... I unite myself to the soul of the Virgin at the moment in which the Father was covering her with His shadow, while the Word was taking flesh within her and the Holy Spirit came upon her to accomplish this great mystery.

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity

Reading from the Desert Christians


Chastise your soul with the thought of death, and through
remembrance of Jesus Christ concentrate your scattered intellect.

St. Philotheus of Sinai

Daily Meditation from

Meditation for Day 9

Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
to loose the bonds of wickedness?
to undo the heavy burden?
and to let the oppressed go free?
that you break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry?
that you bring to your house those who are cast down?
when you see the naked person that you cover them?
and not hide yourself from your own flesh and blood?

Then shall your light break forth as the morning;
healing shall spring forth speedily;
and your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard.

Then you will call; and the Lord will answer.
You shall cry, and He will say,
'Here I am.'
Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
to loose the bonds of wickedness?
to undo the heavy burden?
and to let the oppressed go free?
that you break every yoke?
And if you extend your soul to the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted soul,
then shall your light dawn in obscurity
and your darkness shall be as the noonday.

Then shall your light break forth as the morning;
healing shall spring forth speedily;
and your righteousness will go before you;
the glory of the Lord will be your rearguard.

Then you will call; and the Lord will answer.
You will cry, and He will say,
'Here I am.'
You will cry, and He will say,
'Here I am.'

The Lord will guide you always;
He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land.
The Lord will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called
Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Adapted from Isaiah 58:6-12

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)

Freedom from Judging, Freedom for mercy

We spend an enormous amount of energy making up our minds about other people. Not a day goes by without somebody doing or saying something that evokes in us the need to form an opinion about him or her. We hear a lot, see a lot, and know a lot. The feeling that we have to sort it all out in our minds and make judgments about it can be quite oppressive.

The desert fathers said that judging others is a heavy burden, while being judged by others is a light one. Once we can let go of our need to judge others, we will experience an immense inner freedom. Once we are free from judging, we will be also free for mercy. Let's remember Jesus' words: "Do not judge, and you will not be judged" (Matthew 7:1).

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

Day Nine - The Second Aim, cont'd

As Tertiaries, we are prepared not only to speak out for social justice and international peace, but to put these principles into practice in our own lives, cheerfully facing any scorn or persecution to which this may lead.

Upper Room Daily Reflection

Being Human
March 9th, 2008
Sunday’s Reflection

OFTEN IT TAKES a moment of crisis to wake us up to our need for others, making us aware of the interdependence that is a natural part of being human. When things are going well, we tend to live an illusion of independence, not only from God but also from our fellow human beings. As long as life moves smoothly forward, we tend to think we can handle everything on our own. However, a passing storm — any kind of setback or crisis — reminds us that we need help.

- Sarah Parsons
A Clearing Season: Reflections for Lent

From p. 72 of A Clearing Season by Sarah Parsons. Copyright © 2005 by the author. Published by Upper Room Books. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Richard Rohr's Daily Reflection


Question of the day:
Whom do I scapegoat?

On the Day of Atonement (see Leviticus 16:21 – 22) a goat was brought into the sanctuary. The high priest would lay his hands on the goat and all the sins and failures of the people were ceremonially laid on the goat, and the goat was sent out into the desert to die.

What immediately follows from the scapegoat story of Leviticus 16 is what is called "The Law of Holiness" (Leviticus 17 – 27), which largely defines holiness as separation from evil—which is exactly what they had just ritualized.

Three thousand years later human consciousness hasn't moved a great deal beyond that, despite the message of the cross. Jesus does not define holiness as separation from evil as much as absorption and transformation of it, wherein I pay the price instead of always asking others to pay the price.

from Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality

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

The sacrifice of bread and wine

In the time of the Old Testament, patriarchs, prophets, and priests sacrificed animals in honor of the Son as well as the Father and the Holy Spirit. Now in the time of the New Testament the holy Catholic Church throughout the world never ceases to offer the sacrifice of bread and wine, in faith and love, to him and to the Father and the Holy Spirit, with whom he shared one Godhead.

In those ancient victims the body and blood of Christ were prefigured: the body which the sinless one would offer as propitiation for our sins, and the blood which he would pour out for our forgiveness. The Church's sacrifice, on the other hand, is an act of thanksgiving and a memorial of the body Christ has offered for us and the blood he has shed for us. With this in mind, blessed Paul says in the Acts of the Apostles: Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock, in which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as bishops to rule the Church of God, which he won for himself by his blood.

Those sacrifices of old pointed in sign to what was to be given to us. In this sacrifice we see plainly what has already been given to us.

Fulgentius of Ruspe

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


"Will ye also go away?" John 6:67

A penetrating question. Our Lord's words come home most when He talks in the most simple way. We know Who Jesus is, but in spite of that He says - "Will ye also go away?" We have to maintain a venturing attitude toward Him all the time.

"From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him." They went back from walking with Jesus, not into sin, but they relapsed. Many to-day are spending and being spent in work for Jesus Christ, but they do not walk with Him. The one thing God keeps us to steadily is that we may be one with Jesus Christ. After sanctification the discipline of our spiritual life is along this line. If God gives a clear and emphatic realization to your soul of what He wants, do not try to keep yourself in that relationship by any particular method, but live a natural life of absolute dependence on Jesus Christ. Never try to live the life with God on any other line than God's line, and that line is absolute devotion to Him. The certainty that I do not know - that is the secret of going with Jesus.

Peter only saw in Jesus Someone to minister salvation to him and to the world. Our Lord wants us to be yoke-fellows with Him.

v. 70. Jesus answers the great lack in Peter. We cannot answer for others.

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

March 9, July 9, November 8
Chapter 31: What Kind of Man the Cellarer of the Monastery Should Be

Above all things let him have humility;
and if he has nothing else to give
let him give a good word in answer
for it is written,
"A good word is above the best gift" (Eccles. 18:17).

Let him have under his care
all that the Abbot has assigned to him,
but not presume to deal with what he has forbidden him.

Let him give the brethren their appointed allowance of food
without any arrogance or delay,
that they may not be scandalized,
mindful of the Word of God as to what he deserves
"who shall scandalize one of the little ones" (Matt 18:6).

If the community is a large one,
let helpers be given him,
that by their assistance
he may fulfill with a quiet mind the office committed to him.
The proper times should be observed
in giving the things that have to be given
and asking for the things that have to be asked for,
that no one may be troubled or vexed in the house of God.

Dynamis is a daily Bible meditation based upon the lectionary of the Holy Orthodox Church.

St. Matthew 6:14-21 (3/9) Gospel for the Sunday of Forgiveness:
Sunday of Cheesefare

Fasting: VII ~ Three Essentials: St. Matthew 6: 14-21, especially vss.
17, 18: "But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so
that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father Who is
in the secret place...." This passage from St. Matthew is the final
Gospel before Great Lent. In it, the Lord establishes the three
conditions for fasting: forgiveness (vss. 14-15), accountability (vss.
16-18), and readiness for battle with the enemy (vss. 19-21).

On forgiveness: two matters concerning forgiveness must be settled prior
to fasting - our need to be forgiven and our need to forgive. The aim
of the Lenten Fast is to prepare us for the mighty acts whereby our
Savior "takes away the sins of the world" (1 Jn. 2:29) and has cleansed
"us from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn. 1:9). God is calling us to repent
and confess (Acts 3:19). However, God forgives only to the extent that
we forgive, for "if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither
will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Mt. 6:15). Therefore, this
very day, this very evening, let us begin the Fast with a clean slate,
seeking and giving forgiveness. Then may we profit from the days of the
Fast by self-examination, repentance, and confession.

On accountability: we are called to this Great Fast by our Master. He
is the One Who defines the Fast: what it is and how we are to carry it
out. We are not to blur His goals nor His procedures. The Fast is a
"secret" between us and God our Father, therefore the Lord commands:
"...anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to
men to be fasting" (vs. 17,18). It is a temptation from Satan to
exhibit penitence and contrition, "to appear to men to be fasting" (vs.
16). Displaying our askesis shifts the motives toward seeking men's
approval. Let us fast to purify ourselves and labor where God alone
sees, in the covert of the heart.

St. John of Kronstadt asks: "Do the Christian hypocrites...think that hypocritically? They do not think so." He writes about
prayer, but it applies to fasting: "They pray [fast] daily, perhaps at
length; but...out of habit...not with their hearts, without heartfelt
contrition, without a firm desire for amendment, and only in order to
fulfill the established rule, and [they] 'think' they 'do God service,'
whilst in fact they only incur the wrath of God."1

On readiness for battle with the enemy: in this world, the Lord warns
us, "moth and rust destroy and...thieves break in and steal" (vs. 19).
What are the moth and the rust, and who are the thieves? Moths lay
their eggs in our woolen fabrics unless we protect against them. As
their larvae hatch, they eat away the cloth and destroy that which is
meant to shield and protect us against the elements. What or who does
this to us spiritually? Look to Satan and sin! We implant sin's larvae
in our hearts and minds, and they, in turn, eat away the truth of God
that shields and defends us against the blasts of lies and illusions.
Only by confession and contrition may we hope for the grace of God to
kill the deadly, voracious hatchlings of sin within ourselves.

Similarly, what is it that functions like rust? Is it not the
corrosive, secular life with its fads and promotions? The world curries
the passions with its self-serving lies and distortions. Secularism,
unless it is steadily sealed out by the Chrism of the Holy Spirit,
corrodes devotion and our pledge to worship and serve God alone. Let us
fast that we may heed the Lord's gentle and sure voice, for He alone has
the power to assist us in countering the penetrating, destructive, and
corrosive rust of the world. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me!

Satan and his legion of demons are the thieves who constantly seek every
possible means to break in to our hearts and to steal our souls for his
kingdom. These enemies encourage us to "adjust" the Fast, to shrug at
Christ's Mysteries, and to serve ourselves (and the devils) instead.

Come and dwell in us and cleanse us of every stain and save our souls, O
Good One.


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