March 31, 2011
Thursday of the Third Week of Lent
This rather is what I commanded them: Listen to my voice; then I will be your God and you shall be my people. Walk in all the ways that I command you, so that you may prosper. But they obeyed not, nor did they pay heed. They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts and turned their backs, not their faces, to me. Jeremiah 7:23-24
Enter, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the LORD who made us. For this is our God, whose people we are, God's well-tended flock. Oh, that today you would hear his voice: Do not harden your hearts. Psalm 95:6-8a
When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe. But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils. Luke 11:21-22
Listen, child of God, to the guidance of your teacher. Attend to the message you hear and make sure that it pierces to your heart, so that you may accept with willing freedom and fulfill by the way you live the directions that come from your loving Father. It is not easy to accept and persevere in obedience, but it is the way to return to Christ when you have strayed through the laxity and carelessness of disobedience. My words are addressed to you especially, whomever you may be, whatever your circumstances, who turn from the pursuit of your own self-will and enlist under Christ, who is Lord of all, by following him through taking to yourself that strong and blessed armor of obedience which he made his own on coming into the world. (Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict)
How does God get back what was stolen from him by the strong man?
People have been turning away from the path God asks us to walk for all time. Sometimes, that turning away is manifest in an outright rejection of God for another way of life – following selfish interests. These people will be the hardest to get back. Other times, that turning away is manifest in just a general disregard for God’s rules, not necessarily embracing the ways of Satan, but just, as St. Benedict noted, through the “sloth of disobedience” (i.e. laxity and carelessness).
God is a very patient Father. He is willing to sit at the window and await our return. For that, he has sent his Word and his Word-made-flesh. These are our daily reminders to return to him. However, when God grew tired of waiting for the children (us) to return, he did something pretty radical. He sent his Son to steal us back. Our faith is the celebration of that radical act when God sent his Son to take back from the strong man, what is rightfully God’s.
Lent is that special time that we have where there are forty special days of reminders to turn our hearts back to the Lord. Today’s readings focus on the need for obedience as the basis for our prodigal return. After his call for obedience, the very first stone of obedience that St. Benedict puts into place in the foundation of his Rule is prayer. “Make prayer the first step in anything worthwhile that you attempt. Persevere and so not weaken in that prayer. Pray with confidence, because God, in his love and forgiveness, has counted us as his own sons and daughters.”
Do you treat the Bible like a guy treats directions when lost? Guys sometimes (all times?) ask someone for directions when we are lost but continue to pursue our own solution to getting out of the dense, dark forest. Jesus was just like us. He wanted to forge his own path but when tempted, rejected those distractions. Even right until the end, he hoped he could walk a different path than the one that took him up Calvary to Golgotha. Yet, that cup did not pass from his hands.
God has provided for us directions when we are lost. And then the Lord gives us all the time we need to follow His directions, not our own path.
How are you using the directions of Lent as the platform from which to turn back to God from whatever distracts you from the paths of “listening” and “walking?” Turn your face, not your back to God.