Walking in the Footsteps of Christ – Day 35
Monday in Holy Week
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 (continued)
We are a Christian community whose members, although varied in race, education, and character, are bound into a living whole through the love they share in Christ. This unity of all who believe in him will become, as our Lord intended, a witness to the world of his divine mission.
In relationship with those outside the Order we show the same Christ-like love, and gladly give of ourselves, remembering that love is measured by sacrifice.
From St Francis:
The Lord says in the Gospel, ‘Love your enemies.’ You do in fact love your enemy when you do not brood over the evil another has done to you, but, grieve instead over the sin on the other’s soul, while continuing to act with love for the love of God. (Admonition 9)
It is not for nothing that the love of Jesus for us in this most Holy of seasons is called ‘Passiontide’. Anyone who truly knows about love will now that to be passionate about anything involves pain and sacrifice. This is true from the beginnings of puppy love on the playground, to the love of a father who spends himself in demeaning work to provide for his family, to what is called ‘the final sacrifice’ of the solider who falls on the battlefield in the fight for freedom.
St Francis knew about this ‘passionate’ sacrificial love as he walked in the footsteps of Christ. Often, and this was always his call and charism, the passion was measured by joy unbounded. His love was sometimes measured by deep sacrifice. His rejection by the community he founded brought him pain. Travelling with the crusaders he faced the possibility that his desire to tell the Gospel to the Sultan would lead to his own martyrdom. At La Verna, where he received the awesome gift of the stigmata, his passionate love for our Lord was made visible in the wounds in his body.
With such an example, and the supreme example of the sacrifice of the cross, our own sacrifices for love may seem a meagre offering. That does not mean they are any the less difficult to give. Every mother knows the truth of the words to the mother of Jesus, ‘A sword shall pierce your own heart also’ (Luke 2.35). Each child, as they grow, knows the pain that comes as a freely given love is turned away and the innocence of youthful trust is lost. Adults, more wily in the ways of love and familiar with the pain of heart break, find sacrificial love more difficult. Yet many today still freely choose the pain of a sacrificial love over the security of a life untouched by the pain of others.
When Christians choose security before sacrifice, carefulness before profligate love, we cease following boldly and instead stumble in the footsteps of Christ. Limping towards our heavenly home is understandable for many have been brutally hurt in His service – some sadly injured by fellow members of the Body of Christ. Our challenge is to keep on limping and, via dolorosa like, carry the wounds of our love of others all the way to the life after life.
Recently I had a very difficult time in my journey and I was tempted to seek to serve in a different place. I felt quite hurt and rejected and rather than carry on giving in a place of hurt – a place where I know now love blooms – I longed for a place of sunlight where everyone loved each other equally with no pain. I had forgotten that love is indeed measured by sacrifice. It is only as I have persevered in recent months – and others have graciously persevered with me – that I have come to learn again the lesson of ‘blooming where you are planted’.
At the darkest of these moments a colleague sent me this:
People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centred.
Love them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Be good anyway.
Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People need help but will attack you if you help them.
Help them anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.
Words written by Kent Keith
The words from the very beginning of these principles ring true:
Jesus the Master speaks, “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.” John 12:24-26
To love means to sacrifice, to love means to die just a little. If we do not learn to die for the sake of love we will never be the witness to the world of his divine mission we are called to be.
At the beginning of this journey I called it a journey of ‘letting go’ instead of ‘holding on’ and used Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s famous words that ‘When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die.’
This week is a good week to practice the art of dying…..
Good Jesus, who bore the cross for me,
what cross is it you will that I should bear for you?
You know, Lord, that I am all weakness;
teach me to bear my cross:
bear it for me,
bear it in me.
Who do I love until it hurts? How do I show this?
Who loves me so much that it hurts them? How do I recognise this?
Is there any love I have which is neither hot nor cold?
How will I stir up the fire of God’s love within me?
99 Words to Breathe:
Each day in these readings people have answered the challenge ‘You have breath for no more than 99 words. What would they be?’
Over the next few days why not write your own ’99 words’. I will post mine to everyone on Easter Day.
Here is how someone else attempted the task in a spirit of joy.
Quoi? Que? What? Was?
99 mots? 99 words and what?
What do you mean ’84 now’?
Let’s not panic; how many to say what?
Only 73 left!
To say what I want….. and then die?
No more, Nichts…. Nada…
Le great horrible death of moi…
Got to be meaningful and multi-syllabic, Stephanie.
Does a scream count as a word?
My God! It does!
Let me see… 70?
Hold on… 72?!
It’s going too fast… 78…
‘Serendipity’ is a nice word,
So is ‘ephemeral’, rounded like a pebble.
‘Pebble’ is lovely.
Wait! I don’t want to…
Stephanie Cornicard – actor, translator
‘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