During my self cloistering with COVID-19 and beyond, I have had an abundance of time with which to explore Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5). I find that I am doing Lectio three to four times a day, but they are shorter snatches of time than before. Another surprise from my self-imposed estrangement from reality is that I have time (maybe too much) to reflect on my end time (I am 82 and fading noticeably).
Here are some of my ideas from Lectio Divina.
I am a complete failure. I do mean complete. That is not to say I am a terrible person, but rather a good person by nature who muffed it up more times than I made it. I am not making this statement to have anyone tell me, “Oh, you are a good person.” I already know that. My introspection goes along with the Psalmists who lament over the choices they have made throughout their past and cry out when thinking of the insensitivities and prideful way they have treated others in the past. I am the worst person I know, but the best person who can make reparation for the sins of his past.
https://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/lent/seven-penitential-psalms-songs-of-suffering-servant. I encourage you to read them frequently as do I so that mercy becomes an important part of how I love Christ through the Holy Spirit.
1 For the leader; with stringed instruments, “upon the eighth.”*
A psalm of David.
2Do not reprove me in your anger, LORD,
nor punish me in your wrath.a
3Have pity on me, LORD, for I am weak;
heal me, LORD, for my bones are shuddering.b
4My soul too is shuddering greatly—
5Turn back, LORD, rescue my soul;
save me because of your mercy.
6For in death there is no remembrance of you.
7I am wearied with sighing;
all night long I drench my bed with tears;
I soak my couch with weeping.
8 My eyes are dimmed with sorrow,
worn out because of all my foes.e
9Away from me, all who do evil!f
The LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.
10 The LORD has heard my plea;
the LORD will receive my prayer.
11My foes will all be disgraced and will shudder greatly;
they will turn back in sudden disgrace.g
A reflection on Psalm 6 by USCCB:
by Graziano Marcheschi, M.A. D.Min
Psalm 6 —Prayer in Distress
The Psalms stand against the human impulse to merit God’s love and mercy through goodness or obedience. A part of us clings to the naïve notion that God’s love for us is tied to our behavior: good behavior earns God’s love and acceptance; bad behavior means divine rejection. That’s a diabolical lie and the psalmist knows it. Instead, eyes wide open and looking in the mirror, the psalmist readily admits his sin and begs God’s mercy anyway. Sin darkens human vision and alienates the soul from God, self, and others. Sin’s greatest danger is its ability to make us doubt God’s love and willingness to forgive. The psalmist’s saving grace is his refusal to let sin drive that wedge between him and the Lord; in fact, it’s his painful awareness of his sin that draws the psalmist nearer. We often think we can approach God only when we’re “good” and have our lives in order. But it’s sin God rejects, not the sinner. The psalmist knows if we waited for a “worthy” time, we’d never pray. So we don’t defer prayer; we don’t wait till God “is in a better mood.” At work, we might rely on a spike in sales to incline the boss to mercy, but our God has never been that kind of God. Scripture tells us to pray whenever there is the need. And need is greatest when we are mired in sin.
In his mercy, God does not spare us the consequences of sin. To spur our prayer, to draw us closer when we might otherwise sulk or hide, God lets sin impact our lives. Sin’s consequence is not God’s punishment, but the natural result of our decisions that, in his love, God uses for our good (if we let him). The psalmist is well aware that his own sin has brought both physical distress and the attack of enemies into his life. Yet he prays unashamedly. As a child who has disregarded a parent’s injunction to not venture far from home comes running back when the playground bully threatens, the psalmist knows where home is. He knows where to find the strong arms and loving embrace of a God who eventually would send his own Son to save us—not when we were finally worthy, but while we were still steeped in sin.
Questions for Reflection:
St. Paul says that God “proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). So why do we keep thinking that God will love us only when we stop sinning?
On the other hand, does knowledge of God’s unconditional love mean we needn’t worry about sinning? Is the destructiveness of sin related to the effects it has on God or to the effects it has on us?
Besides petitionary prayer, there are prayers of praise, thanksgiving, adoration, etc. Does a prayer of petition, asking for mercy and the forgiveness of sin, seem to you like a lower, less enlightened form of prayer? How can you combine petition and praise?
Lenten Prayer & Reflection Links
My own reflection.
Like the Psalmist, David, I have been and am sorry for my sins daily. What I experience are those situations in my past where I could have been more like Christ but wasn’t. Reparation for sin in what I do by writing this blog, putting good where there has been evil, and asking for God’s mercy over and over, even though my sins and failings have been confessed long ago. Mercy or restitution for my sins has been a regular part of my awareness of who I am as a human being.
The Jesus Template of restitution, or how I think I approach penance without becoming totally paranoid about it, is one of restitution or making all things new once again. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is one such way that Jesus has established for us to receive grace (energy) and to continually remind ourselves of the cross on our forehead (Ash Wednesday) and in our hearts (the indelible tattoo).
As an adopted son or daughter of the Father, we must carry our crosses daily because Christ carried his cross and paid the price for the ransom of many. It is the “…as I have loved you” part of his command, “Love others as I have loved you.”
I am a total failure from the viewpoint of how I tried to fulfill my human nature using just the world. I used to wonder why that is that I kept doing things over and over again, and they all seemed the same (the martyrdom of the ordinary), but I realized that I make all things new within this broken down, old temple of the Holy Spirit who is a Lay Cistercian. I am not a failure with Christ, but only because I sit next to Christ on that park bench in the middle of winter, being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, and just wait to the extent that I am aware and practice this love of Christ (capacitas dei).
I seek mercy many times during the day and often at night. I am a penitential Lay Cistercian precisely because I call upon the name of the Lord to have mercy on me. I use the ancient prayer: Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner. Over and over, I say it (within reason, of course).
With Christ, who has become the cornerstone that the builders have rejected, what seems like a failure in my human body and mind, transforms itself with Christ for me to become fully human as my nature intended.
Praise be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen. –Cistercian doxologygy