Two weeks ago I talked about judgements – judgement of actions and not the person. We make those judgements through the ‘rules’ or guidelines given to us by Church teaching and Scripture. God has also made covenants (binding agreements between God and His people) with us as well. During Lent we have heard about these covenants in our first readings. This week, we hear from the prophet Jeremiah about the Covenant of the Heart. “A day will come,” says the Lord through Jeremiah, “when I will write my law upon their hearts. No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives how to know the LORD. All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD.” That day has come.
As Vincentians, sometimes the roadmap is not clear – there are no good and clear answers. We turn to God in prayer and follow what seems right in our hearts. When we are united to God, then we can look within ourselves, determine what our conscience is telling us and what God places upon our hearts, and know how to serve our God. We don’t need particular laws for we have the Covenant of the Heart, a Covenant of compassion and mercy. We have the Lord. Our gospel tells us, “The Father will honor whoever follows me.” Just as the angels were with Jesus in His greatest time of suffering, He is with us when we come in prayer for His will. Easter points to new beginnings and new life. We are sharers in that new life. We need to have hearts of compassion, mercy and kindness. We ask God for a clean heart, that we might serve Him faithfully and well.
Lord Jesus, create in me a clean heart that I may be your servant. Give me a heart filled with compassion and mercy – kindness and goodness. Give me a heart full of zeal and passion for your will in my life and the life of others. Write your law – a law of mercy and love – upon my heart that I might look beyond the rules to understand what is truly needed. Grant me the wisdom to seek and know your will in all instances. We pray all of this in your name. Amen
God is in control! Our readings this week all remind us that at the end of the day – God is in control! Lent carries with it a certain darkness we are all working to get out of. The darkness of the challenges in our lives. We have all experienced that spiral into the depths of despair. Maybe, we have had a terrible disappointment. A job we thought was untouchable comes to a sudden end. We realize that a person we thought was a friend was really just using us. A relationship comes to an end. Perhaps life is not turning out the way we expected. It is at the lowest moments – when we are weakest and recognize our inabilities to change that which is – that we reach out recognizing that the source of hope, redemption and recovery is God alone. All solutions come from Him! Thank God! For His plans are far superior to ours!
As Vincentians, we need to move forward with this conviction that it is God alone who can provide both the hope and answers to the challenges of those we meet. They are at the crossroads of darkness. Just as we come to see and understand the power and the light of the cross in our lives, we need to walk with them, moving them to the source of all goodness. In Lent – and on this Laetare weekend – we rejoice as we begin to see the cross from which the power of Christ radiates and shines before us. Let us humbly walk with our clients – our brothers and sisters – helping them through our witness to see the glory, the power and the love of God.
Lord Jesus, I fall at your feet begging your mercy and your help. In the darkness of despair I call out to you for help. I look to you on the cross and unite my sorrows to yours, knowing that you are the source of salvation. I offer myself to you as your humble servant, your hands and feet, as I minister to those whom you bring before me. They are your gift to me that I may be your gift to them. Help us to always recognize that it is you alone who has the answers of goodness and hope. Help us to embrace always, that which you give us. We pray all of this in your name. Amen
As I reflected on this week, I had decided to ‘go off script’ from the readings of the week. God has been hitting me over the head the past couple weeks with a specific topic I felt needed addressed – we say we should provide assistance without judgement. But what does that mean? Did not Jesus teach us “Stop judging that you may not be judged.” (Matt 7:1) What he is saying to us with this though is do not judge the person’s soul. That role belongs to God alone. That does not mean that we shouldn’t judge individual acts though. We judge them against the ‘laws’ (Ten Commandments) and teachings of the church that come from His teachings on how to live. Even though Jesus does not condemn the prostitute he still tells her “go and sin no more.”
Then what does this mean for us as Vincentians, particularly as we deal with more challenging circumstances? We should never condemn people or refuse them help off hand or because of who they are or how they live. Our default position must always be to offer assistance and even to err on the side of ‘giving too much.’ Our discernment should be around what our ‘help’ is actually doing for them. Are we enabling behavior which is actually detrimental to person? Creating dependency which shuts down accountability, self-esteem and motivation is a failure on our part to provide hope and encouragement. Judging our actions and their true impact on another should always be a part of our discernment. This is why prayer must be wrapped throughout every aspect of what we do. Do I simply provide assistance, or do I discern the true needs of those I minister to? Do I judge others, or do I evaluate the intent and value of my help? Am I helping others to find more hope, or simply helping myself to feel better? The answers are never easy. Discernment through prayer leads us to God’s intent and increased holiness.
Lord Jesus, give me the patience to discern your intent in all things. Allow me to understand the true impact of my actions on others. Allow me to avoid judgment of individuals. Allow me to see the difference between assistance that is helpful and hopeful, and that which enables despair. Hear my prayers that your voice be my guide in all my actions. We pray all of this in your name. Amen
Deacon Mike Lyman
From the desert to the mountaintop! It is the journey we travel the first two weeks of Lent each year. We are reminded that each of us faces challenges, struggles, and temptations in our lives. But God reminds us through the Transfiguration of what awaits us if we remain faithful. Jesus takes his disciples with him knowing full well the trials which await them. He wants them to see and know the hope and joy of the future. The hope which the Transfiguration offers to us is the encouragement we need to weather the storms or our lives.
As Vincentians, we too need to sometimes help those to whom we minister to understand that there is hope for the future. This is the greatest gift we give to them – not food, or rent or utilities or gas – but hope and presence. A sense that someone cares and understands. Am I ready, open and willing to allow God to use my presence to help others to see His hope? Do I make myself available to the Spirit – or do I simply take him along for the ride?
Lord Jesus, allow me to work humbly as your servant, being open to whatever you ask of me. Enable me to show your love through my words and actions. Give me patience to listen for your direction – and then to act upon it. Shine your light through me that others might see. We pray all of this in your name. Amen