Friday – October 18, 2019
This will be a permanent rule for you: On the tenth day of the appointed month in early autumn, you must deny yourselves. You must not do any work—neither the citizen nor the immigrant who lives among you. On that day reconciliation will be made for you in order to cleanse you. You will be clean before the Lord from all your sins. Leviticus 16.29-30
A Word of Hope
We are in the midst of the holiest days in Judaism. And since Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest of all Jewish holidays, took place last week, I want to examine the aspects of this important day, and how they might apply to us as followers of Christ.
The Christian tenet of atonement of sin can easily absolve us of a meaningful, intentional examination of our lives and commitment to live at a higher level.
Just as the word “sin” carries a connotation that differs from its meaning, Yom Kippur’s primary elements are often mistranslated and only hint at their original meaning. T’filah and T’shuvah (prayer and repentance) are more accurately translated as self-evaluation and return.
The most common word for “sin” is chait and means to “miss the mark.” More practically, it means an error or mistake. Inordinate guilt or fear of eternal damnation makes no sense in this context.
So, a “Day of Atonement for our sins through repentance and prayer” is more accurately translated as a “Day of Atonement for our errors through self-evaluation and a return to the men and women we were created to be.”
T’filah, or self-evaluation:
Through honest introspection, we consider the times and situations where we’ve acted in ways contrary to God and the better angels of our nature. This self-examination is the essence of what takes place on Yom Kippur.
It involves assessing when, how, and why we veered away from the people we’re created to be, the image and likeness of God. We consider the patterns of triggers and stumbling blocks that often trip us up and consider how often we’ve ‘missed the mark’ by compromising our best selves amid the stresses and distractions of daily life.
I grew up with “forgive us for our sins” or “forgive us when we fail You” included in every prayer, though we spent little time considering exactly what sins or failures we were referencing. At Yom Kippur, emphasis is placed on looking at the very places where we harbor prejudices, display unkindness, fail to act on behalf of the oppressed, abide gossip, dismiss the needs or dignity of others, or seek retribution rather than peace.
T’shuvah, or return:
T’shuvah is about more than repentance. It includes an assessment of where and who we are versus how we could be. We ‘return’ to God by envisioning our lives lived with the degree the love, compassion, mercy, integrity, nobility, and authenticity of which we are capable. It’s a bit like saying to ourselves, “You’re better than that.” For followers of Christ, we look at those areas where we’re doing well and the areas where we could be more Christ-like. And we agree to lay down our resistance to living differently in order to become more like Jesus.
Taking fearless inventories of ourselves, examining our intentions, and committing to become the people we have the potential to be is uncomfortable and difficult work. But, it is work we are asked to undertake. And no one else can make this journey for us.
By examining the elements of Yom Kippur and the true meaning of the actions associated with the day, I believe the conscious appraisal of our lives and our dedication to become better people contribute to our growth as followers of Jesus..
Most Loving God, we are grateful for the ways in which we live noble and authentic lives. May we appreciate those areas while remaining mindful of the areas where we miss the mark. We ask You to extend Your grace to us for those times we’ve erred. Remind us of the resources available to make us better, more Christ-like individuals so that we may do Your work in this world. And so it is. Amen.
Thursday – October 17, 2019
“The aim of meditation . . . is not to arrive at an objective and apparently ‘scientific’ knowledge about God, but to come to know God through the realization that our very being is penetrated with God’s knowledge and love for us.” —Thomas Merton
A Word of Hope
I am taking my first online course from the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, the home base of Fr. Richard Rohr and other fine teachers. My two month long class focuses on The Interior Castle, seminal work of St. Teresa of Avila, 16th Spanish mystic, and is guided by the masterful James Finley and Mirabai Starr, whose translation of the discalced Carmelite sister we are reading. *
I invite you to come along with me over the next few weeks.
One of the key dimensions of the course is regular contemplative practice, practice we are encouraged to use as “book ends” to the videos, reading, journaling, and discussion.
Some of James Finley’s suggestions for contemplative prayer follow:
Sit in a comfortable position, relaxed but alert, head bowed, hands folded or open on your lap. Close your eyes and take a few deep natural breaths. Bow in reverence, then speak the following quieting prayer: “Be still and know that I am God.” Then “Be still and know that I am.” “Be still and know.” “Be still.” “Be.”
Now enter the silence and open yourself to an encounter with God. Some people simply follow their breaths, some repeat a word or phrase: “Jesus, Mercy,” “Open my heart,” or others. During contemplation (from 5-20 minutes), the mind will do what mind does and thoughts will come. We accept whatever arises in an even-handed, non-judgmental way with compassion towards ourselves.
One of Finley’s beautiful variations on this mode of prayer is to hear God’s silent “I love you” on the inhalation of the breath—God breathing God’s very life in you. On the exhalation, give your own self in love to the Love loving you, inwardly saying, “I love you.” Whenever the mind wanders, return to the exchange of love. If sadness arises during the meditation, hear God loving you through all the sadness and then give yourself—sadness and all– to the One loving you. (The same is true for physical pain or fear or any discomfort that arises.)
Over time and with regular practice, the scales of our eyes fall away and we see only Love. The defenses of our hearts fall away and we know only Love.
Oh You, who seek union with us always, open us to the outpouring of your Love. Amen.
Dr. Pat Saxon
For an in-depth video interview with Mirabai Starr on Teresa’s life, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aPyx5daW50
Wednesday – October 16, 2019
“I sought the Lord, and God answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to God are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” Psalm 34.4-5
A Word of Hope
Lately, I have been faced with thinking about my biggest regrets and why; the regret I experienced and what brings me to feelings of regret. I’ve pondered this for a long time and I’ve come to realize for myself that there is a cycle that I can undo, or begin to unlearn at least in part if not in full.
People often say “Hey, that’s OK…. no regrets!“ But the reality is we all do something every day that we might later regret, if we’re honest and presuming we have been lucky enough to find compassion and empathy for ourselves. And that is sometimes about the fantasy about believing a lie that clouds our better selves. I started digging deeper within myself, not so that I can live a life without regret, but rather live my life with less regret. The key to this is honesty and authenticity. That’s tough, right? What would it take for me to fall in love with myself, so much so that I may attract more of the same? I would add to that, having integrity is good too but isn’t that the byproduct of living one day at a time do that one day becomes a week, which becomes a month, then years and so on? Integrity doesn’t last for a few seconds; integrity is the value accumulated over a length of time. It’s earned and expressed only by being honest.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of dear friends who are going through one kind of recovery or another, just like me. Let’s face it, if we’re honest with ourselves, we are all constantly recovering from one thing or another. You can name your own.
And that takes me back to the key word; honesty- and doing the things that I regret, at some point I had to believe a fantasy about myself; it could be any shortcomings, unrealized goals, lack of love, lack of status, lack of anything; you name it. But I realized in the regret I feel, I had not been completely honest with myself at the start. Add to that believing something that may have been the perfect devilish mixture to fill the void of whatever I was lacking in order bake my latest regret casserole.
What did I do? I began taking long walks a few times a week and analyzing what has gone wrong. It’s funny how often I found I wasn’t alone in creating where I landed. I often found a teammate who was baking their own casserole. It’s never just one thing that creates what could become the regret of a lifelong derailment or a temporary setback.
Mr. Rogers is famous for reminding us that he, like our Creator, loves us just the way we are. No facade. No fantasy. Just the whole you; faults and all. That relationship is not just an outsider looking in to me, it’s ME being honest about loving myself just the way I am and making goals about who I may want to be; goals about change and growth, yet becoming authentic with my struggles so I don’t have to believe Superman will save me, but that I can be my own hero… to look within myself for the Savior within. I don’t want to be loved for a fantasy of something I’m not.
O God, there are things that I say and do with absolutely no regret, but may my next few steps take me toward honesty and authenticity so that I will attract the same, because that is a lot easier than tracing back the path that brought me to regret.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Tuesday – October 15, 2019
Live in harmony with one another. Romans 12.16
A Word of Hope
You don’t hear the word “Harmony” used very often. If someone is asked to add some harmony and peace to their busy life, it’s very possible that that person might first seek a Chinese restaurant for fortune cookie advice or maybe a cheap spa! But…Harmony – that peaceful, accepting, caring co-existence among living ones – is the basis of a life “well-lived”…a human life in obedience to the will of God. For God’s plan for the creation is not one of domination, greed and discord, but rather one of peaceful and loving interactions.
Harmony can’t exist without a relationship which is more than the superficial acknowledgment of co-existence. The source of harmony cannot be an external code of “good behavior” – careful language and smile. The true root of harmony lies within the inner-self… the intention of our soul. It is our desire to live the full human experience in a manner which honors the Creator.
One of the vows (promises) made by Cathedral of Hope Order of St. Francis and St. Clare is: “Recognizing that God created everyone a part of the “web of life”, we vow to live in harmony and to be peacemakers with all of creation.”
When St. Francis lovingly spoke of Brother Sun and Sister Water, he acknowledged a spirit of harmony with these elements of creation. And with his fellow villagers and the Muslim Sultan, Francis always related in a manner of peace, harmony and good-will. In each of our relationships, we have the opportunity to find harmony…deep “alive harmony” rather than “fortune cookie superficial” harmony. But, to accomplish this goal, we have to keep our soul’s intention directed to that “place of peace” in every relationship and trust that God’s Spirit will guide and help us.
Before I wrote these thoughts, I sat on my balcony, quiet and ready to say evening prayers. My vision fell on the top of a juicy stem of young basil where a fat little grasshopper sat – very quiet. But, I too sat quietly…watching. And then my little – new – friend’s head started bobbing among those tender leaves. “Go ahead, Brother Grasshopper, eat all you want. There are plenty of leaves on this plant – enough to satisfy both you and me. May both of us live together in joy.” This is a small way of living in harmony with the world around us.
May I always live my life in harmony with the Creator’s plan.
Br. Donald Luke
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Monday – October 14, 2019
“God saw everything that God had made and it was very good.” Genesis 1.31
A Word of Hope
On Saturday, the Order of St. Francis and St. Clare celebrated our treasured animal friends as we enjoyed a huge turnout once again for our annual Blessing of the Animals. This time of year, I become preoccupied more than usual with thoughts of all those embodiments of joy; those animal companions who have consistently blessed my life. Two of my most valued friends today are the cockatoo and cat who share my house. I lived on a farm as a child, so by sheer numbers, the majority of my friends in those days were animals. There were more cats than I can remember. The cats and I always found time to go on adventures, usually involving tracking down glistening green and yellow grass snakes, which we never harmed, (my choice, not theirs). My parents had educated me early in life about the value of the grass snakes’ good works in nature. I doubt the cats cared about the balance of the ecology as much as I did, but the snakes were not their first choice as entrees, anyway.
I’ve always had a strong respect for those marginalized citizens of the dominion of animals, not just snakes, but also bats, praying mantises, piranhas; the list has no end. It is ironic that the very creatures we humans despise and fear the most are among the greatest survival blessings the planet has to offer. Consider the services bats perform each evening while we sleep. A typical bat colony consumes approximately 200 tons of insects a night, and 150 big brown bats can relieve farmers of 33 million rootworms a summer. These creatures are invaluable to the world, perfect in their place in Creation’s balance, yet many of us still classify them as “bad” animals in opposition to “good” animals like cuddly kittens and joyful songbirds. In the Genesis creation story, however, God made no such distinction. Both cuddly kittens and Great White Sharks fall under one classification of: “Very good.”
Perfect Creator, help us to see the goodness of all animals from a Genesis perspective. May we celebrate our own animal companions who daily give us unconditional love. But, may we also keep in mind their wild, and often endangered, cousins, recognizing the intricate aspects of your divine plan in each of them.
Minister for Children and Families
Order of St. Francis ad St. Clare
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235
Toll Free: 800-501-HOPE (4673)