Walking in the Footsteps of Christ – Day 31
Wednesday after 5th 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 First Note – Humility (continued)
We are ready to accept the lowest place when asked and to volunteer to take it. Nevertheless, when asked to undertake work of which we feel unworthy or incapable we do not shrink from it on the grounds of humility, but confidently attempt it through the power that is made perfect in weakness.
From St Francis:
The Humility Befitting the Brothers
In the love which God is (1 John 4.16) I beseech all my brothers – speakers, workers, whether clerics or laics: Seek to humble yourselves in all things, and do not glory in yourselves or rejoice inwardly, or exalt yourselves for the good words and works or, indeed, of any good which God sometimes says or does or works in you or through you. (Rule of 1221, Chapter XVII)
Mealtimes at Franciscan meetings, especially bring and share meals, are fun. Naturally, trying to be generous, members bring more food than they need to eat themselves and so the common table is normally groaning under a weight of provender. When it comes time to eat however there is a marked reticence to move towards the table as everyone tries to outdo others by being the last in the queue. It is challenging to live in a community where everyone, instead of elbowing each other out of the way, is shouting ‘me last’
So it comes to pass that many of our meals end with a discussion as to which other group should be the recipient of the generosity of members; each of whom insisting that someone else’s group or charity is more worthy of support than their own!
Would that this expression of humility could be extended to life beyond the buffet!
Humility, when given the space to grow, has a way of hallowing our weakness and will point people away from us and towards the Servant King we would follow.
When we are full of self-seeking pride and sharpen our elbows to make sure we are at the front of the line, we demonstrate the weakness of a life built around entitlement and preferment and refuse to see that God’s love for others is as intense as God’s love for us.
On the other hand if we lean on our weaknesses and make them an excuse for not being used by God in His service we show ourselves to be full of a Uriah Heep kind of pride which feigns inability but proclaims a life of self-preservation and a refusal to take risks for the love of God.
Giving up our place at the front of the crowd and standing up to be counted when our knees are knocking together are times when we can say ‘no’ to the weakness of the flesh and the pride of the heart. Humility blooms where those who would be first choose to be last and those who find themselves at the foot of the table answer the call to come up higher.
For those who witness to the Gospel (and by my reckoning that should be ALL Christians) pride is made manifest in three particular temptations.
The temptation to shine
– always being at the front of the queue.
The temptation to whine
– forever moaning about ‘them others’ who are at the front of the queue.
The temptation to recline
– presuming that following a path of humility means hiding in the middle of the queue.
Humility demands that we give up on all three of these ways of responding to the call of God. Whether we are called to serve at the back of the queue, or lead from the front line, or spend our life amongst the ‘chorus’ humility demands of us this one thing – that we serve.
O Lord my God,
I am not worthy to have you come under my roof;
yet you have called your servant to stand in your house,
and to serve at your altar.
To you and to your service I devote myself,
body, soul, and spirit.
Fill my memory with the record of your mighty works;
enlighten my understanding with the light of your Holy Spirit;
and may all the desires of my heart and will
centre in what you would have me do.
(The Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church, USA)
Next time you are in a queue give your place to the person behind you
Next time you see a piece of litter pick it up
Next time you see someone struggling to carry a parcel offer to help.
99 Words to Breathe:
Peace is a long time coming,
Peace is my prayer for this earth.
More and more blood is shed on this earth,
Famine is everywhere, and life is getting harder.
Let’s wake up, all as one, and do something before it is too late.
Bloodshed spreads, famine increases.
Sons of the earth rise up all as one to prevent this before it’s too late.
Life is getting harder on earth
Bloodshed spreads and hunger is upon us.
Late in the night, the stars sparkle above,
I wake up suddenly,
I cannot sleep,
So much am I suffering for humanity.
(Baaba Maal – musician and UNDP Youth Emissary)
‘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