Today's readings: Isaiah 58:1-9a; Psalm 51:3-19
It was around this time last year (start of Lent) when we started our journey into Lamentations. It was quite a journey. I believe we are all much better off now as a result of that journey. Today, once again as we have entered Lent, the trumpets are sounded. The prophet speaks to us as he is told to "lift up your voice like a trumpet blast" (Is 58:1).
God has an important message for us.There are many, especially in community, who "seek (God) day after day, and desire to know (His) ways" (Is 58:2a). They have a daily prayer time and are undergoing formation and growth to discipleship. They fast and they make sacrifices. And it is but natural for them to expect God's blessings. They believe they are pleasing to God. But God says there is something that is lacking. External worship must be accompanied by internal sincerity.
These same people may be just concerned about their own well-being, do injustice to others, and quarrel and fight with each other (Is 58:3b-4a). Are we not the same? Are not quite a few members of community the same? Is it any wonder then that, despite our "spirituality" and our trying to live as a people of God, we continue to incur His wrath?
What needs to happen? When is a day of fasting, when we go through the usual observances, a day that is acceptable to the Lord (Is 58:5)? True fasting, and true living in Christ, is a matter of justice (Is 58:6) and mercy (Is 58:7). This is our posture towards all, but especially to our own brethren. We are "not (to turn our) back on (our) own" (Is 58:7).
Let us examine ourselves.
* Do we speak ill against a brother or sister?
* Do we hold grudges against a brother or sister?
* Are we unable to forgive a brother or sister?
* Do we oppress or isolate a brother or sister through lack of full acceptance?
* Are we the cause of our brother or sister having to carry an onerous yoke?
* Are we quick to judge the seeming shortcomings of a brother or sister?
* Do we withhold something that rightfully belongs to a brother or sister?
How do we break out of such a mold? First, we must recognize that we ourselves are sinners (Ps 51:5). We fall short of God's expectations. And so before we can extend mercy to others, we must first of all ask for God's mercy (Ps 51:1a). Recognizing ourselves as sinners also helps us not to become judgmental or dismissive of others. We realize we may be looking at the splinter in the other's eye while missing the plank in our own.
Second, we must know what God wants of us. It is not just being in community, not just serving him, not just having a daily prayer time. It is of course all of these, but more. Something more basic. Something at our very core, and not just our veneer. What God looks for is holiness. Holiness is about purity and integrity. It is all about the disposition of our hearts. Our heart represents the very core of who we are. We can cover up our sinfulness with exterior spirituality, but God knows what is in our hearts. And so God looks for "sincerity of heart" (Ps 51:8), "a clean heart" (Ps 51:12a), "a steadfast spirit" (Ps 51:12b), "a willing spirit" (Ps 51:14b), "a broken spirit" (Ps 51:19a), "a broken, humbled heart" (Ps 51:19b).
When we have such a heart, then we will become just and merciful. To be just is to give to others what is their due as children of God. To be merciful is to be compassionate towards others, extending forbearance and the love of Jesus, becoming channels of God's grace to all. Now such is true fasting.
What is the result? This is especially relevant for us in CFC-FFL.
* "Then your light shall break forth like the dawn" (Is 58:8a). We shall rise up from the ash
heap and bask in the blessings of God, and the light of Christ will shine forth from and through
* "and your wound shall quickly be healed" (Is 58:8b). The wounds and pains of our
Lamentations will be healed.* "Your vindication shall go before you" (Is 58:8c). In God's own
time and way, we shall be vindicated, when the truth is known to all.
* "and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard" (Is 58:8d). With restoration, God's
anointing returns, and we will do our mission in the power of the Spirit, to the glory of God.
* "Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer" (Is 58:9a). God will once again be responsive to
us, not forsaking us due to our veering away.
* "you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!" (Is 58:9b). God will once again be right
there in our midst. Always. Until the end of the age.
God is never outdone in generosity!
Our life in Christ now is all about restoration that leads to joy. "Restore my joy in your salvation" (Ps 51:14a).
Now restored, we continue with our work of proclaiming Christ. "I will teach the wicked your ways, that sinners may return to you." (Ps 51:15). We ourselves first of all learn the lessons of Lamentations, and turn away from our infidelities, and return fully to God's plan and will for us. Then we help one another in our community to live lives of justice and mercy. Then we go forth, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to proclaim Christ and be God's instruments in renewing the face of the earth.
God bless us all.
"For to me life is Christ, and death is gain." (Phil 1:21)
Welcome to Couples for Christ - Foundation for Family and Life East Contra Costa
The CFC Foundation for Family & Life is a gathering of concerned CFC brethren looking to the restoration, preservation and strengthening of the authentic Couples for Christ charism, focused on evangelization and family life renewal.