Let us not be afraid of the shadows.

Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.” (Ps 63.7)

“As the apple tree–or any beautiful tree–among the trees of the wood, so I, my Beloved among the sons, I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit was sweet to my taste.”  (Song of Songs 2.3)

“So there is joy and nourishment for our souls in the shadow of our Lord.  Sometimes we fear as we think of the shadow–‘They feared as they entered the cloud’ (Lk 9.34).” But after those three disciples had entered into the shadow of that cloud, they found it so wonderful that they wanted to stay there.  Let us not be afraid of the shadows.  Let us not be afraid of the clouds. We often meet Him in thick clouds. The shadow is the shadow of our Beloved. He is very near to the place where His shadow is.” (Amy Carmichael)

The trust of the unexplained

“I have been thinking of how many unexplained things there are in life. Our Lord Jesus who could have explained everything, explained nothing. He said there would be tribulation, but He never said why. Sometimes He spoke of suffering being to the glory of God, but He never said how. All through the Scriptures it is the same. I cannot recall a single explanation of trial. Can you? We are trusted with the Unexplained. May the Lord our God strengthen us all in every little call upon faith, as well as in every great call, so to live in patience and steadfastness, that the trial of our faith . . . may be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ, Whom having not seen, we love.” (Amy Carmichael)

Look for Him

Jesus & the woman at the well (2015_02_19 22_01_22 UTC).jpg

Thinking a lot this morning about the Samaritan woman who practiced social distancing every day–going to well at noonday when no one else was there.  Yet, here is Jesus meeting her at that exact time, coming to her, bringing Himself to her.  He desires to do the same for each of us, wherever we are in our isolation and sin.  Look for Him to come to you.

Bright sadness

Witnesses to Hope

Sometimes it helps to look at things with a new perspective.  Here is the Orthodox perspective on Lent.

“The Lenten season is meant to kindle a ‘bright sadness’ within our hearts. Its aim is precisely the remembrance of Christ, a longing for a relationship with God that has been lost. Lent offers the time and place for recovery of this relationship. The darkness of Lent allows the flame of the Holy Spirit to burn within our hearts until we are led to the brilliance of the Resurrection.” (Alexander Schmemann)

Ponder that one today and may you long for your relationship with God in any ways that it may be lost.

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The best thing to give up for Lent

I repost this every Lent.  It’s still the best recommendation as far as I am concerned.

This comes from a Magnificat article written by Fr. Peter John Cameron a few years ago.  I do not have time to quote the whole article (which is always dangerous because what you read will be edited), but I hope–especially those of you who despair of ever giving up what he suggests we give up–that you will find some hope in what he says:

Here’s what to give this Lent: the doubt that goes, “I can never get closer to God because I’m too sinful, too flawed, too weak.”  This is a lethal attitude, for it based on the false presumption that we can possess something of our own–that does not come from God–by which we can please God.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Only what is from God can please God.  But as long as such error persists, we estrange ourselves from God.  Lent is not about lamenting our inadequacy.  Rather, it is a graced moment to receive from God what he is eager to give us so that we can live the friendship with him that he desires. . . .

He goes on to describe how often we try to substitute self-sufficiency for the lack that we find in ourselves–and this usually leads to an experience of darkness in our lives–“we may even wonder if God hates us.”  He allows the darkness in order to draw us back to him.  “The most reasonable thing we can do when that feeling strikes is “to renew our act of love and confidence in God’s love for us.  The Lord allows the darkness precisely to move us to unite ourselves all the more closely to him who alone is the Truth.”

Still–we panic!  We feel as if we are obliged to do for God what we know we are unable to do.  But the point of the pressure is to convince us to receive everything from God.  We can be sure that God himself is the one who, in his mercy, moves us to do what is not within our power.  This is the Father’s way of opening us a little more to himself by making us a little more in the likeness of his crucified Son.

For nothing glorifies God like the confidence in his mercy that we display when we feel indicted by our frailty and inability.  The experience of our hopelessness is a heaven-sent chance to exercise supremely confident trust.  God delights in giving us the grace to trust him.

Sadly, for those who refuse God’s gift of confidence, the darkness can turn to despair.  Yet even in despair the miracle of mercy is at work.  Father Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordaire, the nineteenth-century Dominican priest who was responsible for the revival of the Order of Preachers in France after the French Revolution, makes this astonishing remark: “There is in despair a remnant of human greatness, because it includes a contempt for all created things, and consequently an indication of the incomparable capacity of our being.”  In our darkness, the incomparable capacity of our being will settle for nothing less than the embrace of the Infinite.  Like nothing else, our helplessness moves us to cry out for that embrace in confidence and trust.  The cry of forsakenness that Jesus emits from the cross is just this.

Saint Paul wrote, “We were left to feel like men condemned to death so that we might trust, not in ourselves, but in God who raises from the dead” (2 Cor 1.9, NAB).  That’s the point.  That’s the challenge of Lent.  God wants us to have the strength to believe in his love so much that we confidently beg for his mercy no matter how much we feel the horror of death in ourselves. . . .

Let us this Lent, in the face of all ours sins, our limitations, and our weakness cry out with Jesus, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”  And let us do so with certainty–not doubt or desperation–because our union with Christ crucified has given us the Way to approach reality.  In our asking we hold the Answer.