Walking in the Footsteps of Christ – Day 9
Friday after 1st Sunday of Lent
A Lenten Journey with
the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis
These Reflections which take the Rule of the Third Order as their springboard, were originally published in Lent 2012 are being republished during Easter 2020 as a way of deepening our faith during the Covid19 pandemic which is affecting the whole world
From the Principles:
The Second Aim:
To spread the spirit of love and harmony (continued)
We fight against all such injustice in the name of Christ, in whom there can be neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female; for in him all are one.
Our chief object is to reflect that openness to all which was characteristic of Jesus. This can only be achieved in a spirit of chastity which sees others as belonging to God and not as a means of self-fulfilment.
From St Francis:
Lady Poverty Speaks
‘I was once in the paradise of my God, where people walked naked: in fact, I walked in them and with them in their nakedness throughout the most splendid paradise, fearing nothing, doubting nothing, and suspecting no evil. I thought I would be with them forever, for the Most High created them just, good, and wise, and placed them in that pleasant and beautiful place. I rejoiced exceedingly and played before them all the while, for possessing nothing, they belonged entirely to God.’ (Sacrum Commercium, 25)
Prejudice is the preserve of the powerful. Yes, I know there are those at the bottom of the food chain of society who have their likes and dislikes as well but, as they are mostly powerless, they can do little to act on any prejudices they may harbour.
It is most often when we stand in a place of privilege, status, or power, that the potential to value one person above another becomes a reality. Francis saw that possessions (and with it the privilege and power they purchase) are at the roots of the malaise of a society that values one person more than another. It is for reasons such as this that he chose Lady Poverty as his bride. And it is only when we are betrothed to a faithful spouse that we have any hope of becoming chaste in our love for all those around us.
The opposite of chastity is lust – a senseless seeking after self-gratification at the expense of the life of another soul for whom our Lord and Saviour died. We need to learn each day that there is no hierarchy in the love of God. God loves all people with exactly the same passion and cross-centred commitment with which we are loved. If God has any ‘favourites’ the only ones who are loved more by God are those who are loved least by the rest of His creation (cf Matthew 25).
Our challenge is to walk the path between lust, which wants to own and ends up abusing others for selfish ends, and love, which chooses to see God in all things and calls us to be as open to cherish the whole of creation as our Lord is.
This is not an easy path. We have become used to the idea of ownership and possessions as proof of our worth. The slightly quirky popular statement about modern male society comes to mind, ‘Whoever dies with the most toys wins!’ Put this way we can easily see how futile the pursuit of possessions is, and always will, be. One glorious day we will learn that the more we hold onto our possessions, be they material goods or our attitudes to others, the less capacity we have to hold onto our loving Lord. Every time we see others as our own possession instead of them being God’s treasure we demonstrate our faithlessness and show the world that we do not yet believe in the sufficiency of the salvation of God.
Renouncing our abuse of the lives of others will challenge us deeply. Many are taught from an early age that to succeed means climbing over others. However this renunciation is the only way to freedom from the fear of another standing on top us in turn and, if we but hold on to the One who holds on to us, this path will lead us to the heavenly wedding banquet as pure and chaste brides of our loving Lord.
Christ, let me see You in others.
Christ, let others see You in me.
Christ, let me see:
You are the caller
You are the poor
You are the stranger at my door.
You are the wanderer
You are the homeless
With no bed.
You are the man
You are the child
Crying in pain.
You are the other who comes to me
Open my eyes that I may see.
Some questions to ask when in a place of prayer;
Has there been an occasion when I have found it difficult to see others as belonging to God?
Have I used anyone to achieve my own ends?
Do I rejoice that all people belong to God?
How have I been ‘open to all’
99 Words to Breathe:
God holds the world in his hands.
He is not a bystander
at the pain of the world
but is there, in the dock, on the rack,
high on the gallows tree.
our pain and prayer are somehow
used in the divine economy.
The bloodshed in Salvador
will irrigate the heart of some
financier a million miles away,
while the terror, pain and despair
of people swamped by lava flood or earthquake
will be caught up like mist
and fall again,
a gentle rain on arid hearts or souls despairing
in the back streets of Brooklyn.
hospice medical director, advocate for human rights and victims of torture
‘The Principles’ are from the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis – this version amended for corporate reading by Andrew Dotchin
‘The Words of Francis’ are from ‘Through the Year with Francis of Assisi’ selected and translated by Murray Bodo – copyright © Collins Fount 1988
Prayers are from ‘The Book of a Thousand Prayers’ compiled by Angela Ashwin – copyright © Zondervan 1996
‘You have breath for no more than 99 Words. What would they be?’ were collected by Liz Gray – copyright © DLT 2011
These Reflections, ‘Walking in the Footsteps of Christ’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged