Walking in the Footsteps of Christ – Day 27
Friday after 4th 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 Three Notes of the Order
Humility, love, and joy are the three notes which mark our lives. When these characteristics are evident throughout our community, its work will be fruitful. Without them, all that it attempts will be in vain.
From St Francis:
The True Spirit of the Lord
This is how, servant of God, you will know that you have the spirit of the Lord: If when the Lord does something good through you, the flesh does not get puffed up (for the flesh is ever in opposition to what is good); but instead, you remain less in your own eyes, less than all other people.(Admonition 12)
If the three graces of humility, love and joy are the hallmarks of any community then life will naturally be more harmonious and consequently fruitful. Why would any church or group of faithful people not want to major in the three ‘notes’ in the anthem of the Christian life?
Over the next while we will look at each ‘note’ in turn but it is when they work together that the fruit of the way of the Gospel is most attractive and most powerful to transform lives.
When humility is not present pride takes over and we practice a kind of Little Jack Horner theology in which we become our own saviours dictating to God and to others how they are to receive grace.
Love, if not given freely and without condition, can become distaste and even hate in which we overvalue God’s care for ourselves at the expense of God’s care for others. At its worst the love with which Christians should overflow can be perverted into a kind of lust which sees other people as fuel to feed our ego.
Joy is so often the missing ingredient of the Christian walk and the one thing which prevents people from coming closer to God. There are far too many grumpy Christians who seem to telegraph to those around them that the gift of eternal life is a little like having one’s teeth pulled.
Over the last two to three years the one thing that has exercised my mind most is the conundrum as to why, in almost every Christian group to which I belong, there is dis-harmony, dis-unity and dis-ease? Surely everyone with whom we journey is moving in the same direction. If our task is to help each other along the road why so often does it feel as if people are setting out to trip each other up?
I do not think there is any malicious intent in this. Put against the wall and challenged every Christian I know will run to serve the last, the least, and the lost of society. We need the balance of humility, love, and joy in our daily walk to make sure we do indeed sing from the same hymn sheet. When we do then ‘Make a joyful Noise unto the Lord’ becomes our anthem.
Humility allows us to admit we are wrong (perhaps a re-reading of yesterday’s Nun’s prayer may help). Love calls us to see that the small gifts others bring to God, no matter how awkward or inconvenient, are just as welcome by our Lord. Joy, when set at the heart of our faith, becomes the fuel which calls us to further endeavour and helps us to see all the good gifts around us with which our Lord has blessed us.
O God, the Spirit of truth,
help us to be truthful with one another
O God, the Spirit of gentleness,
help us to be gentle with one another.
O God, who knows what is in our hearts
more clearly than we do ourselves,
help us to hear one another.
O God, lead us in the way
of truth and love.
Can I recognize humility, love, and joy in my life?
Who have I learnt to love?
What am I joyful about?
Where am I learning to conquer pride?
99 Words to Breathe:
Have you ever wanted to throw yourself
off the roof of your own life?
As the quickest exit to elsewhere?
But there was no elsewhere;
it was here.
This blue planet spun in stars.
We were lucky;
we had a whole life and we stretched it
as far as it could go.
What is my life?
A rope slung across space.
And I spent it telling stories
because a story is a tightrope between two worlds.
Thank you for taking a walk with me.
Thank you for everything.
Love is the last word.
Jeanette Winterson – novelist
‘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