Tag Archives: Hebrews 12

Bearing and being changed

In one of the talks in the online course related to his book Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps, Richard Rohr describes the process of recovery in the words of Thérèse of Lisieux:

Serenely bearing the trial of being displeasing to myself.

And listen to Joan Chittister on the centenary of Thomas Merton’s birth:

What Merton calls us to do as part of this slow but fulfilling process [of spiritual development] depends on the raw and ruthless debunking of the self to the self that is the ground of humility.

In these last days of Epiphany, we approach the season of Lent, a season that the Church invites us to observe “by special acts of discipline and self-denial,” and we pray:

That we, beholding by faith the light of [Jesus’] countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory (BCP 217).

Being displeasing to ourselves is not the point; being raw and ruthless in our debunking of ourselves is not the point.

Being changed into Jesus’ likeness is. Being changed from glory to glory is.

Lent is the season where we deliberately turn our gaze toward the crucified and risen Christ of Easter, the one to whom John the Baptist points us in this morning’s Gospel reading (John 1:19-28). But in Lent we are also made more keenly aware of “every weight and the sin that clings so closely” (Hebrews 12:1).

We commit ourselves once more in Lent to the helpful practices of the faith, knowing with the ancient Israelites that “if we diligently observe this entire commandment before the Lord our God, we will be in the right (Deut. 6:25). But on Ash Wednesday and throughout Lent we are also reminded of “our self-indulgent appetites and ways” (BCP 268).

Thérèse of Lisieux offers powerful wisdom in this situation, for we find our serenity in bearing our trials and continually returning to God’s pleasure in us. “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,” we pray.

Merton’s words ring true, too, for desiring abundant life in God, we can be ruthless in ridding ourselves of everything that holds us back. “Grant me the courage to change the things I can,” we pray.

And finally, it is only with our gaze on “God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart” (John 1:18) that we have a prayer of receiving “the wisdom to know the difference.”

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.

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The God of those who repent

On Ash Wednesday, we read Psalm 95 in its entirety at Morning Prayer.

The first seven verses are familiar, of course. Many of us read them every morning. Today, however, the familiar line “Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice” continues with the plea, “Harden not your hearts” (Ps. 95:8).

With the psalmist, far from hardening our hearts, we also acknowledge our sin to God, and we do not conceal our guilt (Ps. 32:5). Repenting is the characteristic of those who follow God.

The Collect of the Day reminds us that God hates nothing God has made. We are not to hate ourselves or anyone else, but instead to work every day to “lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely” (Heb. 12:1). It takes discipline to repent, discipline that “seems painful rather than pleasant at the time” (Heb. 12:11).

But “you, O Lord, are the God of those who repent,” says Manasseh in Canticle 14, “and in me you will show forth your goodness.” The discipline of repenting, of not concealing our sins, “later yields the pleasant fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11).

May the God of those who repent, the God who hates nothing God has made, open your heart in this Lenten season so that you will not grow weary or lose heart. Every blessing for a holy Lent.