7th of the Year ~ GSC 23rd Feb 2020
With Lent beginning in just three days time today`s scripture readings could not be more appropriate as we approach the Holy Season of Prayer, Fasting and Abstinence – and if you are not sure about Fasting and Abstinence there are some very good explanatory leaflets on the bookcase. There is a very good devotional booklet available too to help us all to keep a good Lent.
The response to today`s psalm, verse 8 of Psalm 102, `The Lord is compassion and love` sets the tone for if we hold on to these words then we shall not go far wrong. We heard in the short reading from Leviticus, the third book of the Law of Moses, God telling Moses to instruct the sons of Israel to “Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.” He then forbids hatred, vengeance and grudge and then asks Moses to instruct then people that they “…must love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”
St. Paul, in chapter 3 of his first letter to the Christians in Corinth builds, as it were, on the Mosaic code as he tells his readers, `Didn`t you realise that you were God`s temple and that the Spirit of God was living in you ? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.` I think we need, ourselves, to remind ourselves of our calling that we are not only brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, by adoption and grace through baptism, but are temples of the Holy Spirit. This is why you find me saying, from time to time, “Don`t undersell or undervalue yourselves or each other.” We are all loved by God and so must have mutual respect and affection as brothers and sisters in Christ. St. Paul, at the end of today`s passage from his first letter to the Corinthians, says: `So there is nothing to boat about in anything human: Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life and death, the present and the future, are all your servants; but you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God.
See too how positive is the passage from St. Mathew chapter 5 showing in the very practical teaching of Jesus just how does not abolish the Law of Moses but rather fulfils it in that he teaches us to not only care for our neighbours and friends but to love our enemies and when requested, to go the extra mile in meeting the requests of others by reflecting God`s own loving compassion. When he says, `…if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit ? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not ? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional ? Even the pagans do as much do they not ? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.`
In Lent there will be a number of opportunities for our spiritual growth and for acts of penitence. I have long thought that if we set ourselves to have an attitude of thanksgiving for God`s blessings to us which come to us in so many different ways we find our awareness of sin being fine-tuned and awareness of our need for God`s loving forgiveness greatly enhanced. When we are thankful our whole attitude changes and bitterness, jealousy and dissatisfaction are dispelled and an openness to God`s grace comes.
Recently someone said to me, `I`m not looking forward to Lent – it is such a miserable and joyless season`. My response was that I thought it to be a season of opportunity and looking forward, of being beside Jesus in the Wilderness, of discerning our vocation as we proceed on our pilgrim journey in God`s grace, of turfing out the dross and rubbish in our lives and having a spiritual spring-clean.
Have a Holy, Joyful and fulfilling Lent.