Broad Cove, Petite Riviere, LaHave February
22, AD 2009
Corinthians 13:1-13 Luke 18:31-43
Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things
that are written by the prophets
concerning the Son of Man shall be
Wednesday of this week, the Church proclaims, as it has from
earliest of times, a forty day fast in preparation to stand with St.
Mary and St. John and the other disciples in awe before our Lord on
the Cross on Good Friday – that great and terrible day – and to
celebrate on the third day after, the great Feast of His
Resurrection – Easter.
And it is not necessary for anyone to participate
in this fast to be saved – we are saved by our baptism and faith in
Jesus. And it would be quite wrong for people to participate in
such a fast – unless their motivation is love – the love of God, the
love of their neighbour. But the Church over the ages has suggested
such a fast as a help in the renewal of love.
When Jesus was asked by his disciples why the
disciples of John the Baptist fasted and they did not, Jesus said
unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as
the bridegroom is with them? [that is to say, as long as we know
Love, how could we mourn?] but the days will come, [says
Jesus] when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then
shall they fast.
Of course Jesus reminds us before he ascended
into heaven that we are never without Him – I will be with you
always – but in our daily lives, we surely know times when we
feel lost and far from Him, when our love is not like our first
love, it has cooled. We discover in our actions a lack of
love to our neighbour, we discover in our search for God, a sense of
being lost, of being blind to Him, unable to understand God, to see
Him with the eyes of our mind.
On the way to Jerusalem a blind man desires to
draw near to Jesus. He cries out and the response of the disciples,
Jesus’ followers, is to rebuke him for crying out. The great
apostles, rather than bringing the blind man to Jesus, tell him to
stop wining for the great master who has more important things to
do. They stood beside Jesus, they ate and drank with him, they
listened to his words, they saw the miracles, and yet their hearts
were far from Him. And this is surely the case with each of us
sometimes in our daily lives, in our encounters with one another and
with strangers – we can sometimes even become obstacles between
other people and God, rather than instruments to draw the two
together. And when this is the case, our pilgrimage with Jesus, our
journey of faith has become vain.
If we would enter into a Lenten fast, it is
because we know ourselves to be somewhat blind to God (now I see
in part), and as somewhat
cold hearted and yet desiring the renewal of love. We
want to see the melting of the ice, new growth, the return of Spring
in our hearts. The very word “lent” means “Spring”
(from the Old English word "lencten" for lengthening of days).
St. Paul reminds us in the Epistle that any other
motivation for a Lenten discipline is worthless – it must be out of
though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor,
and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it
profiteth me nothing.
We give up something we love on earth that is not
God – and redirect that same love to God – that love becomes the
wings of our desire searching out God in prayer. Our inward longing
for peace, for fulfillment, stretches out heavenward –
desiring the mercy of God. [St. Augustine]
What we give up is something we love on earth
that is not God. It could be giving up some
kind of food, or to eat less each day (skipping a meal).
It could be watching less television or listening
less to the radio, a kind of fasting of the mind from the myriad of
images and ideas that we overstuff it with.
We fast outwardly, that we might feast
inwardly, spiritually. And that spiritual feasting could include adding a
discipline of reading Scripture and of contemplative prayer.
It could be contributing a little more to
the Church or some other charity or giving in some other way to the well
being of others. Or perhaps some combination of these fasting
– prayer – almsgiving.
These are the main ways suggested by the Church
to observe a Lenten fast.
In the Gospel the blind man cries out to Jesus
because he has faith that Jesus can help him, because he has
a holy hope that his current limitations can be overcome by
Jesus, and he has certainty that the person he is petitioning will
look upon him with mercy, with love. Faith, hope and charity
abide in him – and Jesus does not disappoint him.
Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought
unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him, saying, What wilt
thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may
receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight; thy
faith hath saved thee. And immediately he received his sight, and
[saw Jesus with his eyes and] followed [him, because he
loved him], glorifying God
The prayer which this blind man uses to petition
Jesus, has inspired a certain practice of prayer taught in the
Eastern Church and now also in the West – it is called The Jesus
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a
sinner or sometimes it is in a shorter form – even just
repeating the holy Name of Jesus. Some people use this sort of
repeated prayer to help to quiet the mind from being distracted by
thoughts and to remain focussed on the worship and adoration of
Jesus. I will speak about this in a series of talks to be given on
contemplative prayer this Lent, starting a week from Wednesday.
This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, a day the Church
has suggested can be a day of solemn fasting (no food, only drink)
and prayer as we begin Lent. I will speak a little more about
different kinds of fasts at our services on Wednesday.
Again, what is key in any spiritual discipline –
whether fasting or any particular kind of prayer, or in the
expression of generosity – is that it is
motivated by love of God and love of our neighbour.
We are going up to Jerusalem one more time, and
all things written by the prophets concerning the son of Man shall
be accomplished, we hope, in our hearts.
We do this, year by year, because we know that
our understanding, our vision, of the depths of God’s love shown to
us on the Cross is still not perfect – if we saw it perfectly, if we
understood it perfectly, we would love perfectly.
And so we have set before our eyes today in our
readings St. Paul’s most sublime passage on love as a kind of
reminder that we are still a bit blind and in need of the vision of
God’s love, in need of a Lenten fast, in need of the renewal of
love. This is what perfect love looks like…
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity
envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not
behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked,
thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the
truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things,
endureth all things. Charity never faileth.
God grant that at the end of this time of Lent
our hearts might know greater joy and be more filled with His love.
O LORD, who hast taught us that all our doings
without charity are nothing worth: Send thy Holy Spirit, and pour
into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity, the very bond
of peace and of all virtues, without which whosoever lives is
counted dead before thee: Grant this for thine only Son Jesus