Walking in the Footsteps of Christ – Day 32
Thursday 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 Second Note – Love
Jesus said, ‘I give you a new commandment: love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ (John 13:34-35)
Love is the distinguishing feature of all true disciples of Christ who wish to dedicate themselves to him as his servants.
From St Francis:
St Francis’s Letter to All the Faithful
In the name of the Lord, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen. To all Christians: religious, clerics, and lay people, men and all women; to all who inhabit the whole world, Brother Francis, your servant and subject, offers the homage of reverence, true peace from heaven, and sincere love in the Lord. Since I am everyone’s servant, I am bound to serve and minister to everyone the fragrant words of my Lord. (Letter to all the Faithful, Second Version)
‘See how these Christians love one another’
Tertullian’s famous quote from the early days of the Church has sadly often been used with a sense of irony amongst those who challenge the church to be more like the Master she professes to follow.
The call to love should be absolutely and completely self-evident; It should seem odd if it were not so. After all why would people declare that they would follow the teachings of their founder and then walk in the opposite direction?
But the deep sacrificial profligate love shown by the one who call us to love ‘as I have loved you’ is so world-changing that it is perhaps understandable when people don’t quite hit the mark. Even Francis found this when, towards the end of his life, his brothers wanted to reject his rule because it was too hard to follow.
To Walk in the Footsteps of Christ is difficult and there are tempting easier ways to do good to those around us. We can help the poor without loving them. We can transform society without washing its feet. But when we love, however weak or conditional that love may be, we learn not just to give our time, our talents or our treasure; we give ourselves.
If we are to be the most faithful of his followers it is love which must become our distinguishing feature. When it does then we are set free to serve the world without any strings attached. Christians can and do manifest many other godly graces but love is the hallmark which sets us apart.
Without love people can still serve those who live around them.
There are many reasons why people will offer help.
Some serve out of a sense of duty – and build a world run on compulsion.
Some help so that their own community may prosper at the expense of others – and build a ghetto.
Some even work for those close to them because of their hatred of other groups – and build a world whose theme is ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’.
We serve best when we know we have been loved.
Christians are not called to love because others need our help, care, and compassion. Christians love because they have been on the receiving end of the help, care and compassion of Christ.
Service from any other motive or desire will produce good deeds and may even change the world around us. But if we do not make love our aim (1 Corinthians 14.1) then the chance is we will find ourselves limping into the kingdom. When love becomes our distinguishing feature then the Christian walk becomes a hop, skip and a jump and we rejoice as we follow the footsteps of Him whose service is perfect freedom (Book of Common Prayer).
May the power of your love, Lord Christ
Fiery and sweet as honey
So absorb our hearts
As to withdraw them from all that is under heaven;
Grant that we may be ready
to die for love of your love,
As you died for love of our love
(Francis of Assisi)
Am I seen first of all as a loving person?
How have I not loved?
How will I love today?
99 Words to Breathe:
‘In the beginning was the Word.’ But how can that be?
Like, ‘In our beginning was the Boot’? Feet were designed to fit into Boots?
I don’t think so! As Ira Gershwin wrote, ‘Things that you’re liable to read in the bible… ain’t necessarily so.’
Language can hide what it pretends to represent.
What are extremists/Inidans/Visigoths/Travellers? People.
More like you and me than not. And what are people? Animals. And so on.
Strip away words as clothes.
Reveal the shockingly vulnerable intimacy of the universe.
Then start again.
Next time, hopefully, not just dressed to kill.
ps to be honest, if I only had 10 minutes
to live (9.9?) I’d like to apologise to anyone
I’d ever hurt
(Robert Wyatt – musician)
‘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