Walking in the Footsteps of Christ – Day 36
Tuesday 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 Third Note – Joy
Rejoicing in the Lord always, we show in our lives the grace and beauty of divine joy. We remember that we follow the Son of Man, who came eating and drinking, who loved the birds and the flowers, who blessed little children, who was a friend of tax collectors and sinners, and who sat at the tables of both the rich and the poor.
From St Francis:
The Innocent, Prayerful Heart
Since spiritual joy springs from the heart’s innocence and the purity of incessant prayer, these are the two virtues we need to acquire and keep. Then that joy which I long to see and feel in myself and in others, that inward and outward joy, will be an edification to neighbour and a reproach to the Enemy. For sadness is his and those who follow him; rejoicing and always being happy in the Lord is ours. (Mirror of Perfection, 95)
A recent birthday card I received described me as someone who did not see the glass as being half-empty or half-full but instead that the glass was not big enough!
For me, and for many Franciscans, as I have learnt to appreciate the riches which God has given me – and won at such a great price – I can do nothing but respond with a joy filled life. Anything less would be a crass ingratitude. Christians of all people should be full of joy; a fullness which comes from a realisation of the great generosity of our ‘Father in heaven who knows our need before we ask’ and runs to bring us succour. We worship a loving God determined to pour upon us blessings beyond measure every day. God gives us more than we need, deserve or desire, what can we do but celebrate and live lives of joy?
This is not how we always see the church. Nor, to be honest is a life of joy unrestrained always my hallmark – on occasion I am quite good at being a very miserable sinner, and making others miserable along the way.
I often ask myself why that is so?
Is it because I am greedy and expect more from God than I have already received?
Is it because I am unhappy with God’s way of working, preferring my plan to God’s?
Or perhaps it is because I refuse to be content with the promises of God provision, hunger after my own will, and so turn any possibility of joy into sorrow?
When we realise that God has done all things well and ordered all things according to his plan then every moment of each day becomes an opportunity to celebrate the generosity of God. It becomes easy to take time to smell the flowers, listen to the laughter of children and celebrate life. It also becomes possible to make friends with all kinds of people, as our Saviour did, for we will see that He sends his sun to shine on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5.45 ) and God has no preference in his profligate love.
Like those who laboured in the heat of the day it is tempting to be jealous of the generosity of God (Matthew 20.15) and rail with the Psalmist as to why the wicked prosper (Psalm 73 and elsewhere). After all how dare God love the faithless as much as he loves the faithful? Surely he can see that they don’t appreciate his providence? And every time we disapprove of the generosity of God, the faithless drift further away, our hearts are hardened to our brothers and sisters who are not on the same journey as us, and our joy is extinguished.
Joy celebrates everything; even setbacks – the earlier story of ‘True Joy’ on Day 15 bears frequent reading – and liberates us to be instruments of the gospel. When we grab and grasp at the generosity of God and deny it to others whom we deem to be unworthy, joy is squeezed from our hearts by greed and we begin to die.
Glass half-full, glass half-empty or needing a bigger glass? Whichever way we view life it is up to us to decide how we will receive the generosity of God. We can begrudge it, like the unfaithful servant (Matthew 25.14f.) or we can invest the generosity of God in the lives of those around us and reap the dividend of divine joy.
Batter my heart, three person’d God; for You
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit You, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue,
Yet dearly I love You, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to You, imprison me, for I
Except You enthral me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except You ravish me.
In what ways have I been living a joyful life?
Did I laugh yesterday?
Find the ‘tax collector; in your life and make a friend of them.
99 Words to Breathe:
I wish I had told my parents before it was too late how proud I was of them and the way they put boundaries into place to stop us going off the tracks.
As I make my swooping last journey upwards I will get that chance and say thank-you to God for the gift of life in my grandchildren.
Our lives are full of friends that we sometimes take for granted.
‘Thank-you’ is the word that is always on the tip of my tongue; it’s a small word but if I only had enough breath for three words they would be ‘thank-you for life’.
Elaine Gaston – welfare funerals officer
‘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
for no more than 99 Words. What would they be?’ were collected by Liz Gray – DLT 2011