This reflection is available in both text and podcast (below) format.
On first glance today’s scriptures sound a bit bleak with all that reference to the wicked, sin, law breaking, death, more wickedness, renouncing integrity, more sin, practicing filth, broken faith, more sin, more renouncing integrity, more evil, death, guilt, the depths, more guilt, anger against others, fools, renegades, hell fire, and being thrown into prison.
Now let’s focus on the real meaning of today’s scriptures, not a beat-up on how bad we are but a call to live fully and the very helpful clarifying of the method to abundant daily living.
I have grown to understand that self-esteem is not a human achievement. Positive self-esteem is what we have when we accept that we are imperfect and know that we are loved even while imperfect.
It is fine to achieve well and to be affirmed for accomplishments, but that positive feeling passes quickly with negative thinking creeping in: ‘they love me because they like what I did… but if they knew what I was really like they probably wouldn’t love me.’
I like to think of myself as being in recovery. Here’s what I mean.
When I am thinking that the abundance of life I seek is a fruit of my hard work, my commitment, and even my faith, life becomes hard work for me. When I think like this my life becomes a project of self-improvement motivated by goals that need my commitment, my faith and my hard work.
However at a deeper level I soon become exhausted and begin to suspect that even the best of goals are powerless to deliver the happiness that they promise. As this suspicion grows to become a conviction I am left wondering what’s the point of it all.
But this powerlessness is precisely the moment when the point of life becomes visible to us and we begin to vibrate with the urgency of the mission that we are created for, that is to seek salvation not in our own successes and achievements but to look to the saviour as the one and the only one who has the power to save.
This realisation is precisely what it means to live in right relationship with God and with self.
Note that this awareness is ours not when we manage to keep all the rules and achieve all our goals, but when we are brought to our knees by the rough and tumble of life and turn to Jesus desperately seeking the salvation that is his mission.
Our problem is that when we are brought to our knees we feel as though we are falling apart we (and everyone around us) tries to put ourselves back together again according to our own idea of who we (and others) want us to be.
The truly humble person, the one who acknowledges their powerlessness over at least some aspect of their lives, is desperate for healing and growth.
Remember that Lent means springtime, and spring is a season of abundant growth.
Think of those great natural life-images, the seed that has to break to germinate, the egg that has to crack for the chicken to hatch, the chrysalis that dissolves that the butterfly might emerge, the smallest of all seeds falling to the ground and dying that becomes the greatest tree of all.
The method Jesus gives us is not a private project but involves making amends where necessary, taking at least a step towards putting things right with others, sorting things out.
Such action to bring renewed relationship with our sisters and brothers is the visible fruit of personal powerlessness and humility, and a sign that salvation has come to our house.
- Pray with the psalm today from today’s liturgy: “My soul is waiting for the Lord. I count on his word. My soul is longing for the Lord more than watchman for daybreak. Let the watchman count on daybreak and Israel on the Lord. Because with the Lord there is mercy and fulness of redemption.”
- A prayer for today (taken from the 12 steps) Dear Lord, help me to see and admit that I am powerless, that I am unable to manage my life. Help me to understand the true meaning of powerlessness.
- Today’s Lectio Divina at this link.
Today’s reflection as a 10 minute driving-to-work podcast: