Archive for March 14th, 2011

Lenten Observance: A Heart Rending Experience

“Rend your hearts and not your garments” (Joel 2:13)

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

As we enter the Lenten season again this year let us open ourselves to the Holy Spirit to let Him guide us in our devotions and our meditations on the Word of God.  Let us not only let Him guide us but also reform us from the inside out!

The Lenten season provides us with the opportunity to identify spiritually with the passion and death of our Lord, Jesus, and prepare ourselves to share with Him the Glory of His resurrection as we observe the devotions and readings of the liturgy for the season

In order to properly consider Jesus’ Passion and Death let us begin by reflecting on His Baptism and ask the Holy Spirit’s guidance so that through our observance and meditations we may grow spiritually closer to the Lover of our souls.

First, consider that Jesus, in accepting His ministry by accepting to be baptized by John the Baptist, identified Himself with all humanity by taking on himself the responsibility for all our sins and thus offering himself – as the Lamb of God as the sacrifice of atonement for man’s sin.

In lowering Himself into the baptismal waters He accepted the death that was due us for our sins. When we, accept our baptism in water, we also identify with Him by lowering ourselves into the waters of His Death. And, by rising up from the waters of baptism we share in the new life in Christ that was won for us at His Resurrection. (cf., Rom.6:3-18)

By reflecting on Jesus’ passion and death we bring to our conscious awareness the magnificence of the Love the Father has for us. For, in sending His only son, the image of Himself, into the world to suffer and die a humiliating death enthroned on the Cross of Calvary, He manifested the magnificence of His Love – a Love that went beyond all imaginable bounds to redeem us and restore us as children of His Love.

Who would ever imagine that the Divine One who created us would become one of us so as to take on the judgment that was due us for all our sins. And, not only take on the judgment, but to give us His Holy Spirit to remake us in His image so that we could again function as His adopted Children, the objects of His Love!

Such is His Love for us that in order to maintain His Righteousness and Justice as God, the only way left for Him to carry out His Judgment against sin was to come amongst us as a sinless man so that as a man, Jesus the Son of God, could take that judgment on Himself and thus free us from the bondage of sin and envelop us in His Love as his adopted Children.

Because He loves us so much, clearly the main response He desires of us is that we Love Him as He Loved us. He desires our love so much that even our works, though done to Honor Him, are not sufficient to satisfy Him if they are not accomplished in and through Love. That is why the Apostle Paul tells us that unless we respond with this kind of Love (agape Love) we become as a “noisy gong or a tinkling Cymbal” [signifying nothing](cf.,1 Cor. 13:1 ff.).

What we need to ask ourselves this lent is this: “Am I doing what I do during Lent merely out of compliance with tradition, the obligation to participate in a rote procedure, or am I doing it because of my true, intimate, and personal Love for God and in response to the Love He has demonstrated for me through the sacrificial death of His Son in payment for my sins”? Remember that doing something out of obligation or compliance is NOT Love. It may be honorific but it is NOT true Love. Actions that are derived from true Love are done freely out of the desires of our heart for the One we Love and not out of constraint. This is the point of spiritual awareness and purity of motives that we are called to in entering into the season of Lent. This is the kind of heart-rending we need to experience to purify our inner selves in response to His Love. (see also my posting on the second Beatitude)

Listen to what the Lord says through the prophet Joel:

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD,  “Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping, and mourning; And rend your heart and not your garments.  “Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in loving-kindness, And relenting of evil. Who knows whether He will not turn and relent, And leave a blessing behind Him, Even a grain offering and a libation For the LORD your God?” (Joel 2:12-14)

Notice the emphasis on the purity of the motive behind our turning to Him as being with “all your Heart”. It is the full attention of our Heart that He desires, and it is our hearts, that is, our spirits, that He wants us to “rend”, and not just an external ritual of penance, like the rending of our garments; this the way that our true repentance in Love must be manifested before Him if it is to be considered a response to His Love.

That bring up another item that we must also consider as we come before Him in repentance, and that is, that He and he alone must be at the center of our hearts.  If we come before Him with our hearts centered on the world and what we desire from the world, our motives cannot be pure. In fact, if we have these worldly desires in our heart we are considered as adulterers before Him. For He is our Spouse, He is the bridegroom and we are the bride. Can we be His bride and have anything of the world in us? Hear what the Apostle James tells us about the attitude of repentance that must be taken by those who are in such a state:

“Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says,

“God opposes the proud,

but gives grace to the humble.”

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 4:4-10)

Coming before Him in true repentance then, requires that we purify our hearts and strip ourselves of any double-mindedness that somehow deceives us into thinking that we can have two loves – the world and our Loving God! To truly respond to His Love, He and He alone must be our only Love and desire! As John the Apostle tells us, “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. “ (1Jn 2:15)

If your conscience bears witness to this, and most of us are in this category, repent from your heart, confess your sin before God and make Him the only Love of your life. In doing so ask for the help of the Holy Spirit, keeping remembrance the following psalm:

Thy Word is a Lamp Unto my Feet

Thy Word is a Lamp Unto my Feet

“Your word is a lamp to my feet

and a light to my path.

I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,

to observe your righteous ordinances.

I am severely afflicted;

give me life, O LORD, according to your word.

Accept my offerings of praise, O LORD,

and teach me your ordinances.

I hold my life in my hand continually,

but I do not forget your law.

The wicked have laid a snare for me,

but I do not stray from your precepts.

Your decrees are my heritage forever;

they are the joy of my heart.

I incline my heart to perform your statutes

forever, to the end.

I hate the double-minded,

but I love your law.

You are my hiding place and my shield;

I hope in your word. “

(Psalm 119: 105-114)

In conclusion brethren, remember that we need to forgive in order to receive forgiveness ourselves (cf., Matt. 6:14-15). We cannot respond in love if in our hearts, we harbor un-forgiveness, resentment or bitterness towards anyone, If we truly Love God then our response to His Love and forgiveness must be for us to forgive those who have offended or hurt us in any way; just as He said to those who had Him crucified, ” Father forgive them for they know not what they do”(Luke 23:34).

In coming to a sincere and true repentance, we all need to examine our conscience and assess the quality of our “love” against the standard that was set by Jesus and aptly summarized by Paul:

“Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous;

Love does not brag and is not arrogant,

does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked,

does not take into account a wrong suffered,

does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails; “ (1 Cor. 13:4-8).

If we have failed in responding to His Love, we need not despair, for His Mercy, Love and Forgiveness are always available to us.

“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” (1 Jn 1:8-10)

Thus, brothers and sisters, in entering into Lent , let us be observant, but with the pure motive and intent of responding to the Love that the Father has manifested to us through His Son, Jesus the Christ. Opening ourselves totally to the Holy Spirit who has poured His Love into our hearts (Rom. 5:5), keeping always in mind the following scripture:

“Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.  We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.

He that loves not his brother abides in death. Whosoever hates his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 Jn 3:13-14)

I pray that the Love Of God envelop you and His Holy Spirit guide you as you meditate and observe the Passion, Death and Resurrection of His Only Son.

May you grow in His Love and may His Love grow in you!

Your Brother in Christ … Bartimaeus


Recommended Links

<> Jesus the Source of living Water and Us

<> The Kingdom of God; Our Spiritual Inheritance

<> Reclaiming Our Legacy in Christ

<> Receiving the  the Holy Spirit

© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-20011].

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