Friday, January 9, 2015

Friday in the First Week of Ordinary Time

Hebrews 4:1-11
Psalm 78
Mark 2:1-12

REFLECTION: "Forget not Yahweh's works."

In the response to our Psalm today, we echoed the words, "Forget not Yahweh's works." This is such a vital thought, or should be anyway, to us as Christians, that I think we need to take a few moments to unpack this concept. 

The idea of remembering what God has done for his people is not something new in Jesus' day, or in the days of the psalmist. Remembering what God has done is at the heart of an ever growing faith. Remembering what God has done is key to positive evangelism.

Remembering what God has done is, for Israel, a national action. It is to be woven into the fabric of their spiritual DNA, as it were. This notion carries over to the Church, and to her Liturgical form of worship, which we inherited from Judaism. We celebrate daily prayer, the Eucharist, and other liturgical forms of worship precisely because they are specifically crafted means by which we remember what God has done for us.

The psalmist points out that it is by knowing our own faith, and passing it along with passion and in purity, that subsequent generations are strengthened in their faith journey, and kept from falling into the trap of stubbornness that marked the Israelites in the desert.

This institutional remembering, however, is one part of the picture of how we catechize ourselves and the next generation. Liturgy is great. It is an amazing vehicle. It carries so much on its shoulders, but we must be cautious to ensure that Liturgy does not become a substitute for a personal, individual commitment to cultivating a living relationship with God. Liturgy as a part of that living relationship is great. Liturgy substituting for it, however... not so much so.

Liturgy walks us through vital truths, it gives voice to the praise of the Church, it allows God to speak to us and remind us of what he is doing towards us. One name often applied to the Eucharistic liturgy of the Church in Germanic languages is "Divine Service". In the worship of the Church, God serves us. 

But he also seeks to serve us at home, in the quiet, still hours of prayer that he calls us to nurture in our hearts and minds. Yes, it is essential to hear preaching and teaching, to join with others in prayer... but all of that is meaningless if we are not calling to mind for ourselves, in our own personal exploration of God's Word and his Person, what he has done for us from the beginning... in Creation, in the promise of a Messiah, through the Flood, in the calling of Abraham's progeny, in the Exodus, through the Promised Land, and to Capernaum... to the sick man's mat... and to his rising to a new life on his own two feet.

Friends in Christ, when we allow ourselves to be formed, through Liturgy, private prayer, Scripture study, and the deep, intimate connection to God that only silence can bring at times, we begin to get a foretaste of that rest that we read about in the Letter to the Hebrews today. Its a rest, an eternal rest, one that goes beyond our comprehension... but one that is the ultimate destiny of all who seek to still their hearts, know who God is, and embrace him for what he is.

And so, today, my brothers and sisters... if you hear Yahweh's voice speaking to you personally - through the texts we share as a worshiping community, through the readings we have just shared or your own personal Scripture time, through the prayers you offer on your knees at home, or in the still, quiet moments of reflection that perhaps pepper your day - harden not your hearts.


For a rejuvenation of our personal commitment
to both the public worship of the Church,
and to private prayer and Scripture study,
that we may be formed daily through our remembrance of God's mighty acts;
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For the deepening of our own personal integration of faith into the various aspects of our lives,
and for the grace to listen to God's promptings in how to wisely apply what we believe
in our relationships,
our vocations,
and our daily thought processes;
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For those, in France,
as well as in other areas of the world who,
being used to peace and security in their homeland,
find themselves deeply unsettled
by ongoing threats to life and liberty at the hands of extremists,
that they might find themselves visited by the Spirit
and gently led to the peace promised to those who follow the Master's way;
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For those who, today, 
find themselves in the midst of refugee camps, 
in foreign homes, 
or walking with no purpose, 
and for those who come to their aid, 
that their needs, fears, and losses may be consoled 
and fullness of life restored to them; 
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For children everywhere who are grieved in body, mind, and spirit
by war, abuse, neglect, or outright abandonment,
that in their darkest moments of sorrow,
and in their most painful tears,
God might be made manifest to them
in ways that are unmistakable and comforting;
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For the special needs and intentions that we bear with us today
as we gather in the presence of the Lord...
let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, hear our prayer.