Walking in the Footsteps of Christ – Day 40
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 (continued)
The purpose of Christ is to work miracles through people who are willing to be emptied of self and to surrender to him. They then become channels of grace through whom his mighty work is done.
From St Francis:
In Love with Christ Crucified
Jesus in agony in the garden of Gethsemane and Mary in agony somewhere in Jerusalem, unable to do anything, having to stand helplessly by and let her only son suffer the terrible inner struggle that no one else can suffer for us. Such was St Francis’s feeling, his compassion for Christ, his Saviour. He wanted somehow to suffer with Jesus, and so, two years before he died, this prayer rose from the depths of his love for the crucified Christ: ‘O Lord, I beg of you two graces before I die – to experience personally and in all possible fullness the pains of your bitter passion, and to feel for you the same love that moved you to sacrifice yourself for us.’ (Little Flowers of St Francis)
On Good Friday amongst our family there is always a decision to ‘go deep’ in following the Passion of our Lord. So, after all the events of Maundy Thursday evening (see ‘Our Words’ below), a Good Friday meditation, Stations of the Cross involving a procession to a country-side church, and a choral cantata, the day is not even begun unless there is the mandatory watching of one of the cinematic version of the crucifixion.
Occasionally it has been Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’ (far too gory for me) so I was relieved to just be greeted by two family members who had instead settled for the BBC’s live passion story and Jesus Christ Superstar. I had suggested they watch ‘The Miracle Worker’ – it has been an intense Passiontide for me and I need something without too much gore – but I was just scoffed at!
Allowing God to work miracles through us is what Walking in the Footsteps of Christ is all about. The Miracle Worker par excellence works miracles in us as he transforms our life on the journey home. And now, having learnt the directions, it is our turn to work miracles in the lives of others as we encourage them to join us on the journey.
Christ is indeed only able to work miracles through people who are willing to be emptied of self and to surrender to him. We learn more, love God better, and serve others best when we are able to let go of the things to which we have held on to. Once emptied of all save His will there is the glorious opportunity to become channels of grace. What a rich and privileged calling!
Often Franciscans will pray that they become a ‘channel of peace’ – a kind of storm drain of God’s love. People so open to the whisperings of the will of God that there is nothing of themselves obscuring the view of their Master from those amongst whom they live and work. Too often I find myself getting in the way of God’s love for others. My life, disfigured by sin, becomes an imperfect mirror. My example, skewed because I want everyone to hear God in the same way I did, lead people to worship God in my image instead of finding God in the face of Jesus. The call to be empty vessels surrendered to the service of His love is urgent to help us on our journey. But it is not just for us, if we obey the call and we will have the privilege of helping those close to us speed their way home.
There is a story about ‘Bamboo’ found below, which paints this picture better than I can. It teaches me that ultimately to Walk in the Footsteps of Christ means to give it all away. Leaving behind our learning, our ability, our insight and find ourselves naked before Him and willing to become tools in the nail scarred hands of The Miracle Worker.
Lord, make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console,
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving, that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
(Prayer for Peace written by a French Army Chaplain for frightened soldeirs in World War I – found on the back of a picture of St Francis)
How have I emptied myself?
Have I surrendered control of all areas of my life to God?
What miracles am I stopping God from working through me?
Our 99 Words
One of our sons was the first to respond to my request for our own version of ’99 Words’.
Fresh from a very moving service….
An altar stripped before God
A church and congregation stripped of everything between it and God
I wouldn’t know where to start?
I cannot begin
A love so great as to be beyond what any word, or 99 words, could describe
Your servant stripped bare by love
Not able to comprehend such a love
Let alone describe it
Or deserve it
Pull the other one!
But there it is, freely given
Even me (89)
Johnathan Dotchin – preacher’s kid
The Story of Bamboo
Once upon a time in the heart of the Western Kingdom, lay a beautiful garden. And there in the cool of the day was the Master of the garden, who went for a walk.
Of all the dwellers of the garden, the most beautiful and beloved was a gracious and noble Bamboo.
Year after year Bamboo grew yet more beautiful and gracious. She was conscious of her Master’s love and watchful delight, yet she was modest and in all things gentle. Often when wind came to revel in the garden, Bamboo would throw aside her dignity. She would dance and sway merrily, tossing and swaying and leaping and bowing in joyous abandon. She would lead the great dance of the garden, which most delighted her Master’s heart.
One day the Master drew near to look at his Bamboo with eyes of curious expectancy. And Bamboo in a passion of love, bowed her great head to the ground in joyful greeting.
The Master spoke: ‘Bamboo, I would use you.’ Bamboo flung her head to the sky in utter delight. The day of days had been growing hour by hour; the day in which she would find her completion and destiny. Her voice came low: ‘Master, I am ready, use me as you want. ’Bamboo,’ the Master’s voice was grave, ‘I would be obliged to take you and cut you down.’
A trembling of great horror shook Bamboo. ‘Cut me down? Me, whom you Master have made the most beautiful of all in your garden? To cut me down, Ah, not that, not that. Use me for your joy. Oh Master, but cut me not down.’
‘Beloved Bamboo,’ the Master’s voice grew graver still. ‘If I do not cut you down, then I cannot use you.’ The garden grew still. Wind held her breath. Bamboo slowly bent her proud and glorious head. There came a whisper. ‘Master, if you cannot use me unless you cut me down then do your will and cut.’
‘Bamboo, beloved Bamboo, I would cut your leaves and branches from you also.’ ‘Master, Master, spare me. Cut me down and lay my beauty in the dust but would you take from me my leaves and branches also?’
‘Bamboo, alas. If I do not cut them away, I cannot use you.’
The sun hid her face. A listening butterfly glided fearfully away. Bamboo shivered in terrible expectancy, whispering low.
‘Master, cut away.’
‘Bamboo, Bamboo, I would cut you in two and take out your heart, for if I do not cut so I cannot use you.’
‘Master, master, then cut and divide.’
So the Master of the garden took Bamboo and cut her down and hacked off her branches and stripped off her leaves and divided her in two and cut out her heart, and lifting her gently, carried her to where there was a spring of fresh, sparkling water in the midst of the Master’s dry fields.
Then putting down the end of broken Bamboo into the spring and the other end into the water channel of his field, the Master laid down gently his beloved Bamboo.
The spring sang welcome. The clear sparkling water raced joyously down the channel of Bamboo’s torn body into the waiting fields. Then the rice was planted and days went by.
The shoots grew.
The Harvest came.
In that day was Bamboo, once so glorious in her stately beauty, yet more glorious in her brokenness and humility. For in her beauty she was life abundant. But in her brokenness she became a channel of abundant life to her Master’s world.
‘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