Ash Wednesday Benedictine Spirituality Christ Cross Lectio Divina Lent Liturgy Prophetic voices Scripture Uncategorized

Ash Wednesday

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There are many ways to describe Lent. It’s a time for, reflection, renewal, fasting, almsgiving and much more. Generally, one of these will take on more significance or importance for us than others, and that may change from year to year. But underlying all of those is the call back into relationship with God. At the heart of all our Lenten practices, from Ash Wednesday onwards is this call to relationship. The Prophet Joel writes:

“Now, now – it is the Lord who speaks – come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning… Turn to the Lord your God again for he is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness and ready to relent. Who knows if he will not turn again, will not relent, will not leave a blessing as he passes…”

It’s a call that’s full of challenge and promise. It challenges us to look closely at our lives, to ask how far we’ve allowed the busyness of our lives to squeeze God out. In a world where we are always supposed to be positive and in control his words remind us of all the grief that we both carry and cause. We are challenged to allow ourselves the freedom to admit that all is not well in our lives and in our world. Alongside the challenge there is hope and a promise that helps us to face it. Whatever we are facing, however enthusiastically we begin Lent and however that enthusiasm might wane over the coming weeks the gracious promise of God will remain, offering us hope and encouragement. Wherever this Lenten journey leads us the God of tenderness and compassion will be there with us, encouraging and supporting us whatever we face.

On this Ash Wednesday where do you hope to encounter the God who is all tenderness and compassion?

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Beginning again

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Inspired by Sister Laurentia John’s book: “The Way of Benedict: Eight Blessings for Lent.” I’ll be reflecting on a different blessing each week in Lent through the lens of the Scripture readings and of the Rule of St Benedict.

The blessing for the first week of Lent is beginning, an obvious one for Ash Wednesday. Chaim Potok’s book “In the beginning”, opens with this phrase that gets repeated again and again throughout the book, “all beginnings are hard…” His words remind me of a truth I often forget.

However much our beginnings overflow with promise, hope and possibility, and they can also be hard. Beginnings don’t come with guarantees. Each beginning requires us to step out in trust into the unknown, that is challenging and unsettling.

Ash Wednesday leaves me both aware of the challenge of beginning and offers a blessing which gives me the courage to take the first step. The source and the purpose of our Lent journey is love. We begin it as a response to the call of love that we hear from the Prophet Joel:

“Now, now – it is the Lord who speaks – come back to me with all your heart…”

As he calls us to turn back to the true source of our being his words remind us that we are first and foremost made by and for love. His words are echoed in the Prologue of the Rule of St Benedict:

“Listen carefully to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from a father who loves you: welcome it and faithfully put it into practice.”

However hard that first step into Lent might feel we carry with it the blessing of the love that called us and that will sustain us all through the journey.

What blessing sustains you as we begin our journey through Lent?

Ash Wednesday Benedictine Spirituality Lectio Divina Lent Prayer Scripture Uncategorized

Tenderness and Compassion

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Ash Wednesday always feels like a wake up call. It reminds us of how far we have slipped in our intention to live as people of God, how far we have moved from the values of the Kingdom that we’re called to make a reality. This year, watching as war breaks out in Europe, that wake-up call seems even more urgent than usual. It makes the words of the Prophet Joel that we heard at Mass seem particularly relevant.

“Now, now – it is the Lord who speaks – come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning. Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn, turn to the Lord your God again, for God is all tenderness and compassion…”

His words seem to sum up both what we are going through and what we need to do to about it. Our world once again seems full of suffering. Everywhere we look we discover the heartbreak that is always part of war. The suffering already seems endless and insurmountable. We can very quickly begin to feel hopeless, numbed by the pain and unable to act.

In these circumstances it seems to me that our first and most important step is to turn back to God with our broken hearts and broken lives, seeking compassion and forgiveness for ourselves and for one another. Maybe then, knowing ourselves ourselves the recipients of God’s healing compassion we will be able to find ways of sharing that compassionate love with all who are broken hearted today.

As we start our journey through Lent what heartbreak are you being called to bring into the compassionate love of God?