An invitation too good to refuse!
In the Ash Wednesday liturgy you have been Invited, “…in the name of the church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.”
Self-examination and repentance may be the most ambitious disciplines, but they are at the heart of our Christian faith. Self-awareness is a difficult attribute in life today, where many cultural values encourage selfishness. It is valuable to have a companion or close friend or counselor who will “speak the truth in love,” to us about our words or actions. The heart of Jesus’s teaching was about turning around, realigning one’s direction or way of living. At a recent meeting at St. Pat’s, one member apologized to another in front of the group about a disrespectful remark and action at a previous meeting. That was a perfect example of repentance. Forgiveness brings healing and hope for new life and stronger trusting relationships. Might you risk asking a trusted person for feedback about your attitude?
Prayer, fasting, and self-denial are easier to practice… well, at least prayer is? Devoting some daily space and time for listening prayer, not necessarily talking prayer, could be a real gift in the midst of a fast, crowded life. Being still and knowing that God is present (a Psalm) – always and everywhere – will add a measure of peace and calm to whatever is challenging you that day. I find a designated time and space helpful in establishing a discipline. Be open to a great variety of ways to pray. Try walking, or sketching, or listening to music, or focusing on some special display in creation. My latest is weathered cedar shingles.
Fasting and self-denial? Eat local. Eat less. Eat healthy. Try going without. If no alcohol or tobacco or chocolate or coffee or sex works for you, do it. The point is to create a space and an awareness of disciplining one’s personal habits and hungers. Consider the effect of one of your behaviors on someone else. If eating meat will cause a sister or brother to fall, then eat no meat. If leaving your dirty socks on the floor irritates your mate, then pick them up. Deny yourself some selfish, thoughtless luxury.
Reading and meditating on God’s holy Word can enrich each day of your life. Pick up a “Forward Day by Day” meditation guide in the Common Room. Take the Sunday bulletin home and re-read some sentence of scripture that jumps out to you during worship and repeat it every day. Find a good daily meditation source like The Society of St. John the Evangelist’s (Episcopal Order of Men in Cambridge, MA) SSJE daily blog. The Bible is a rich collection of spiritual wisdom from those who have made the journey before us; benefit from the stories of how God was active in their lives. Invite Jesus into your daily trek and listen to his whisper.
This Lent is a special time for us at St. Patrick’s as we begin “Discovering” where the Spirit will lead us into the future. The suggested spiritual disciplines or practices are ideal tools to guide us as we seek to know how we will be formed and inspired to serve our sisters and brothers in the community in greatest need. How we will be drawn into collaboration with other faith groups is an exciting enterprise: the Body of Christ will be repurposed, rebirthed and reconfigured, as we discover new life through the ashes of humility and grace.
In prayer for a holy Lent, Fr. Rick