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Quinquagesima Sunday

Holy Communion

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 accomplished. 

 

On 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 cooledWe 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 love… 

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.

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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. 

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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 Christ's sake. 

Amen.

 

 

 

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