Sunday, 3 April 2011

Lent Day Twenty Three - ThIrty Three

Our resident blogger will be away for the next 10 days. Normal service will resume on the 15th April. These are the reflections and prayers for the following days. Happy Lent!

Lent Day 23

Mohandas Gandhi: Fasting and the voice of God

Fasting for the sake of unfoldment of the spirit is a discipline I hold to be absolutely necessary at some stage or other in the evolution of an individual. Crucifixion of the flesh is a meaningless term unless one goes voluntarily through the pangs of hunger. For one thing, identification with the starving poor is a meaningless term without the experience behind it....
Fasting should be inspired by perfect truth and perfect nonviolence. The call for it should come from within, and it should be imitative. It should never be undertaken for a selfish purpose but for the benefit of others only. A fast is out of the question in a case where there is hatred for anybody.
But what is the inner voice? Is everybody capable of hearing it? These are big questions. The inner voice is there in every one of us, but one whose ears are not open for it cannot hear it, just as a deaf person is unable to hear the sweetest of songs. Self-restraint is essential in order to make our ears fit to hear the voice of God. (Mohandas Gandhi: Essential Writings, Orbis) Gandhi (1869-1948), a Hindu, popularized the use of religious nonviolence for political change as a leader for Indian independence.

The Fourth Week of Lent ~ Monday
God who created me,
You offer me new life through your Son
and through the gift of your sacraments.
While I see new life all around me,
I don't always recognize the new life you offer me.
Help me to grow this Lent in an awareness
of the gifts you place in my life
and in a greater appreciation for your care.
Give me the courage to ask for help.

Lent Day 24

Edwina Gateley: Contemplative prayer

When I was a small girl, I was fascinated by all things religious and holy. God, obviously, fitted squarely into that category. God lived (so they told me) in our huge, greystone cathedral, and there, indeed, he was to be found--hiding in a gold box surrounded by flowers, candles, and velvet curtains. I spent hours in the silence and the darkness of the huge cathedral--often all alone--just sitting, breathing, awed by a deep, intuitive awareness that I sat with God.
Little did I know, at such a tender age, that I was engaged in contemplative prayer. I was simply absorbed by a sense of divine presence. It has never really gone away. As I grew older, however, life became busy and demanding. I went to college, then to Africa as a lay missionary teacher, and later founded the Volunteer Missionary Movement. I didn't really have the time to sit in dark and holy places, wide-eyed by mystery. I was very busy about the business of saving the world.
But I didn't save the world. That has already been done. I am in a sense--like everyone else--trying to save myself, to become fully myself for God. My journey is coming full circle. Older, wiser, and deeper than in those earlier years when I sat in the cathedral, I now sit again, not in my cathedral but in myself. I "sit" wherever I find myself, for my cathedral is within me.
I know now that no matter how far we travel, how much we accomplish, how deeply we suffer, or how joyfully we dance, God is always with us in all of those things for the whole of our life's journey. That dark, silent, and mysterious place stays with us, housing the holy. Like the Lenten experience, there are no extra props. There is just the darkness and the emptiness and, at the very heart of all that the divine presence, the Holy One whom we seek, breathing, hidden within us, eternally loving and waiting.
Gateley is the founder of the Volunteer Missionary Movement.

The Fourth Week of Lent ~ Tuesday

Joyful praise in Lent?
I'm not sure I always feel that.
I ask you to help me prepare to understand
and embrace the paschal mystery in my life.
I don't always see the beauty and mystery
of this season
and often I run from the pain.
Help me to see how your saving grace
and your loving touch in my life
can fill me with joyful praise of the salvation
you have sent to me.

Lent Day 25

Fyodor M. Dostoevsky: Choose to love

Christ said, "Go and give all you have to the poor and become the servant of all," for if you do that, you'll become a thousand times richer because your happiness won't be made just of good food, rich clothes, satisfied vanity, and appeased envy. Instead it will be built on love, love multiplied by love without end. And then you will gain not just riches, but the whole world!
Today we amass material things without ever satisfying our greed, and then we madly squander all we have amassed. But a day will come when there will be no orphans, no beggars; everyone will be as one of my own family, everyone will be my brother or sister, and that is when I will have gained everything and everyone!
Will we choose to love, or not? (The Adolescent, W.W. Norton)

The Fourth Week of Lent ~ Wednesday

Loving and merciful God,
I am so aware of my sins and weaknesses.
But as painfully aware of my faults as I am,
Let me also remember your tender love,
your gentle and limitless forgiveness.
I come before you filled with pain and guilt
but look into your eyes and see the forgiving love
I so long for in my life.
Help me to forgive the same way.
Teach me to love as you love.

Lent Day 26

Joan Chittister, O.S.B.: A growing season

Lent is not an event. It is not something that happens to us. It is at most a microcosm of what turns out to be a lifelong journey to the centre of the self.
The purpose of Lent is to confront us with ourselves in a way that's conscious and purposeful, that enables us to deal with the rest of life well. It is not a "penitential season." It is a growing season. It requires us to determine what is worth dying for in our own lives and what it may be necessary for us to become if we really want to live. (National Catholic Reporter, Feb. 23, 2001) Chittister is an Erie Benedictine sister, author, and lecturer.

The Fourth Week of Lent ~ Thursday

Merciful Father/ Loving Mother,
I know that the tiny sacrifices I make this Lent
can never serve as a real penance in my life.
But help me to make my whole life
one of following your Son.
I am filled with your love.
Let your love shine out from within me
and guide my life in this sacred journey
toward the Easter joy you offer me.

Lent Day 27

 M. Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O.: A clash of wills

How often have we prayed: "Our Father, who art in heaven . . . thy will be done. . . . " We have watched the ultimate expression of our Lord's own struggle as he sweat blood in Gethsemane's garden and in his anguish cried out: "Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me, but not my will but yours be done."
We know the anguish ourselves, in varying degrees: the sudden death of a loved one, a crippling accident, an unplanned pregnancy. It is not what we want. We have heard—and struggle to believe—that for those who love God all things work together unto good. But deep down in us something cries: "No! It is not what I want. My will be done." We usually do not have the audacity to say it right out to the Lord. But we sure do not like what he seems to be saying or doing or allowing to be done. And we do not want to say: "Thy will be done."
If only we could realize how much we are loved. Then we could fairly easily believe that for those who love God all things work together unto good. If only we had the humility to realize that the all-knowing Father of infinite love does always know what is best for us. God does not want bad things to happen, but God has given us freedom. God respects the freedom he has given us. Thus God does allow bad things to happen to good people. At the same time God knows that the power of divine love is far greater than any evil. The all-encompassing compassion of divine mercy is infinitely greater than any sin.
At times we do really need to crawl to Gethsemane, to see, to hear, to enter into and let the Lord enter into our own struggle: "If possible, let this pass, but not my will but yours be done." Yes, many times in our life we glibly pray: "Thy will be done" But that deep transformation of our all-too-human spirit needs those moments or hours or days of anguish before our original-sin "My will be done" is replaced with the communion of self-giving love that is expressed so succinctly: "Thy will be done."
Pennington is a Trappist monk and a writer and lecturer on prayer. A former abbot, he now resides at St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts.

The Fourth Week of Lent ~ Friday

Loving God of forgiveness,
I come before you humbled and sad
in the face of my own repeated failings.
I hold out my hands as a petitioner would,
asking for mercy.
It is then that I feel you reach out and take my hand
in your loving grasp.
Thank you for the love you pour out on me
so lavishly.
Help me to follow more closely
in the path you have set for me,
the path of your Son.

Lent Day 28

 Meister Eckhart: True conversion

Many people think that to show their sorrow for sin they must do extraordinary things such as fasting, walking barefoot, and the like. The best penitence, however, is to turn away completely from all that is not God and not divine, whether it be in yourself or some other person, place, or thing.
True repentance is approaching God in love and squarely facing up to what you have done. Choose your own way of doing this, and discover that the more you do it, the more real your repentance will become.
True conversion is like our Lord's Passion. The more you imitate it, the more your sins will fall away. (Adapted by Richard Chilson, C.S.P. in That You May Have Life: Let the Mystics Be Your Guide for Lent, Ave Maria Press) Eckhart (1260 - 1328) was a German Dominican and one of the great Christian mystics.

The Fourth Week of Lent ~ Saturday

what you ask of my life seems so right.
It is how I want to live,
following your Son, Jesus, so closely.
And yet I fail so often to stay on that path.
I cannot do it alone, loving Lord.
I need your help and guidance.
I need to remember your love for me
and I want to remember
how very much I need you in my life.


The sisters of Lazarus sent word to Jesus, saying,
“Master, the one you love is ill.”
When Jesus heard this he said,
“This illness is not to end in death,
but is for the glory of God,
that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So when he heard that he was ill,
he remained for two days in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to his disciples,
+Let us go back to Judea.”
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus
had already been in the tomb for four days.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”
He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said,
“Where have you laid him?”
They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”
And Jesus wept.
So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”
But some of them said,
“Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man
have done something so that this man would not have died?”
So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb.
It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him,
“Lord, by now there will be a stench;
he has been dead for four days.”
Jesus said to her,
“Did I not tell you that if you believe
you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone.
And Jesus raised his eyes and said,
“Father, I thank you for hearing me.
I know that you always hear me;
but because of the crowd here I have said this,
that they may believe that you sent me.”
And when he had said this,
He cried out in a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out,
tied hand and foot with burial bands,
and his face was wrapped in a cloth.
So Jesus said to them,
“Untie him and let him go.”
Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what he had done began to believe in him

John 11

The Fifth Week of Lent ~ Sunday

My loving Lord,
it's so hard to love the world sometimes
and to love it the way Jesus did seems impossible.
Help me to be inspired by his love and
guided by his example.
Most of all, I want to accept that I can't do it alone,
and that trying is an arrogance of self-centeredness.
I need you, dear God, to give me support in this journey.
Show me how to unlock my heart
so that I am less selfish.
Let me be less fearful of the pain and darkness
that will be transformed by you into Easter joy.

Lent Day 29

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin: The value of suffering

It is a normal, instinctive response to run from suffering. We try to avoid it for ourselves, and we make every effort to protect our loved ones from it. Suffering is perceived as a dire threat to our life and happiness.
Our dread of suffering is so strong that we not only seek to shelter ourselves from it, but sometimes we shun others who suffer, even our friends and family, in our effort to escape its pleading voices.
Those who have been divorced sometimes report that their friends and family no longer invite them to parties. At times, those who have been fired or laid off tell us that when they encounter their former colleagues, they are met with embarrassed silence.
Cancer patients and others who suffer with serious illness notice that their former friends have difficulty looking at them, eye to eye. We don't know what to say. The pitch and volume of suffering reduces us to silence.
Jesus tells us, however, that in that silence life begins! "Whoever would preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it" (Mark 8:35) . . . .
For every follower of Christ there comes a choice, when the path veers off toward the cross. The wisdom of the world raises an alarm: Turn back, beware, ahead lies our destruction! But in our hearts a softer, firmer voice invites us, "Come, follow me, and I will show you that path of life." (From a Sept. 15, 1991 homily quoted in The Journey to Peace, Doubleday)
Bernardin (1928 - 96) was the archbishop of Chicago from 1982 until his death from cancer. He wrote about his illness in The Gift of Peace (Loyola Press).

The Fifth Week of Lent ~ Monday

God of love,
I know that you are the source of all
that is good and graced in my life.
Help me to move from the life of sin
to which I so often cling,
into the new life of grace you offer me.
You know what I need to prepare for your kingdom.
Bless me with those gifts.

Lent Day 30

St. Francis of Assisi: Peace prayerLord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is sadness, joy.

Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled,
as to console;

To be understood, as to understand;

To be loved, as to love;

For it is in giving that we receive,

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.

It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Although the authorship of this prayer, first printed in the early 20th century, remains unclear, it has traditionally been attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (1181/82 - 1226), the founder of the Franciscans.

The Fifth Week of Lent ~ Tuesday

Loving God,
You have heard my complaints, my impatience.
Sometimes I become frightened
when I move away from you.
Guide my heart back to you.
Help me to think beyond my own wants
and to desire only to do you will.
Thank you for the many blessings in my life
and for the ways I feel your presence.

Lent Day 31

Megan McKenna: The fast I want

This is the fast that I want—a fast from violence, to do no harm, have no tolerance for war, and to resist by living with passionate devotion to the Word made flesh in all peoples' flesh. I want you to fast from all that causes disrespect, disregard, dissension and despair, arrogance, derision, scorn, and a feeling of self-righteousness. We are to remember that the word enemy is just another name for what we once were with God, but we now have been embraced in Jesus' Passion, death, and Resurrection. The death of Jesus is the ultimate and extreme expression of the peace of passion spent totally.
This is the foundation of other practices. This is the peace of Christ, pax Christi. Begin by "denying your very self" (Mark 8) so you won't deny Christ's peace or do harm or violence to anyone; instead, bow before others, bow down to your knees and serve and give your life as a ransom for many.
This is what it means to be kin to Jesus, to be a disciple. We vow to live under no sign of power but the sign of the cross. So we vow—to practice forgiveness, amnesty, reconciliation, mercy, love of our enemies, to love one another as we have been loved by God in Jesus, to live "at-one-ment," to live free from fear and hate, and to do no violence and to harm no one or the earth.
This Lent we are summoned to "lower our standards," which originally meant to "put down our arms." The cards that image the peaceable kingdom of Christmas must become reality in Lent—where the lion and the wolf lie down with the lamb and the child sits by the adder's lair (Isa. 11:6-9), the sign of the peace of God among us.
Some practical suggestions: 1) Pray for those you still name-call enemies; 2) Pray for those who insist on using war to react to problems around the world or to deal with their sense of fear and anger in retaliation to others' actions; 3) Join Pax Christi USA, the Catholic Church's international peace movement; 4) Practice regard for strangers, foreigners, immigrants, and others in our society; and 5) Sign yourself with the sign of the cross and reflect upon that power of the peace of Christ.
Let us walk in this way, the way of the cross, the way of peace and nonviolence. And then comes Easter: "Under cherry trees there are no strangers" (Kobayashi Issa), and under the cross there are no enemies, all are found to be the friends of God. We pray to live "in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."
McKenna is a writer, storyteller, preacher, and ambassador of peace for Pax Christi USA.

The Fifth Week of Lent ~ Wednesday
Loving Creator,
I know in your great love for me,
you see the deep sorrow in my heart.
Hear my prayers which are offered
with such trust in you.
Be with me in both mind and heart
as I renew my life in your spirit.

Lent Day 32

St. Vincent de Paul: God's mercy
Always turn your eyes from the study of your own sin to the contemplation of God's mercy. Devote much more thought to the grandeur of his love for you than to your unworthiness toward him, to his strength than to your weakness. When you have done this, surrender yourself into God's arms in the hope that he will make you what he requires you to be and that he will bless all you do. (quoted from The Saints' Guide to Learning to Pray by Louise Perrotta, Charis Press)
St. Vincent de Paul (1580 - 1660) was the founder of the Vincentians and cofounder of the Daughters of Charity. He is the patron saint of all charitable societies and works.

The Fifth Week of Lent ~ Thursday
all I want is to be faithful to you in my life,
but so often I fail.
Free me from my many sins
and guide me to the life I will share with you.
I wait for your promise to be fulfilled
with great hope in my heart
and your praise on my lips.

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