Lenten Contemplations


 Day Eighteen - Saturday

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and
hate your enemy.'  But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for
those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly
Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes
rain to fall on the just and the unjust.  For if you love those who love you,
what recompense will you have?  Do not the tax collectors do the same? 
And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that?  Do not
the pagans do the same?  So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Matthew 5:43-48; The New American Bible

Friendship, forgiveness and loving your enemies - a mouthful to speak and a lifetime to perfect.  What exactly is a friend?  Is it that person you can call upon when you are lonely, or want to go do something with?  Is it that person you can rely on?  Is a work friend the same as a life-long friend?  And what about when your friend betrays you, what then do you call them?  Friend?  Enemy?  Ex-friend?

If a friend becomes an ex-friend, what do you do with what's inside of you that hurts?  Do you block out the experience and forget entirely about the person?  In zen buddhism it is taught that forgetfulness leads to forgiveness.  Basically meaning that if you learn to let go of resentments of the past and their hooks on the situation or person, you can then find a more peaceful state of consciousness wherein you can carry your emotions to a forgiving state of mind.  But does this work?  Who can say they have completely forgiven or forgotten a traumatic experience with another?  Even if you choose to not be angry at the situation, who, through forgetfulness, can say they are truly at peace?  For if another stepped in and did the same thing to you, you just might get hurt - again.

So, how does one find forgiveness?  Forgiveness doesn't happen because we've forgotten, for we are foolish to forget.  Forgiveness happens when we release our resentments toward the situation, the person and yes, even God.  When we mature our outlook and go beyond the environment and delve deeply into our beings, then we begin to recognize that forgiveness is it a lifelong process. 

Christ explains this so well in this parable,

"Then Peter approaching asked him, "Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?  As many as seven times?"  Jesus answered,
"I say to you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.  That is why the
kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts
with his servants.  When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before
him who owed him a huge amount.  Since he had no way of paying it back, his
master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his
property, in payment of the debt.  At that, the servant fell down, did him homage,
and said, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.'  Moved with compassion
the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.  When that servant
had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. 
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, 'Pay back what you owe.' 
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay
you back.'  But he refused.  Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed,
and went to their master and reported the whole affair.  His master summoned him and
said to him, 'You wicked servant!  I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. 
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?'  Then in anger
his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. 
So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart."
Matthew 18:21-35; The New American Bible


This teaching tells us that forgiveness takes time and compassion.  If we do not exercise patience and compassion with another, who will exercise patience and compassion with us?  It is not that our Father will abandon us to the devices of evil, rather we choose our paths and when we cannot give what we would want to receive in return, we cannot expect that our misgivings be rewarded with blessings.  If we give hatred, then we can expect hatred. If we cannot forgive another, how can we expect to be forgiven.

In the Lord's prayer it says,"Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."

If you are praying this prayer, then you should know that you are asking the heavenly Father to forgive you the way you forgive others.  So it is wise to forgive with your heart, as the mind can trick you through the intellect and say, "I have forgiven," but your heart will remember the grudge.  If you forgive with your heart, your heart will not deceive you, but let you know the truth.  You will find that at first you are unwilling to let go of that anger, but when praying to the Lord with honesty, and you tell him that you are unwilling and ask for a willing heart to forgive, so the healing process begins. 

We take these passages so lightly sometimes, but the depth of their meaning carries so much importance as it is how our lives are spent dealing in relationship with one another.  What is essential is that we constantly forgive (again, prayer), so that in the end, we can smile toward that individual who did us great harm.  So when and if we ever see them, we can compassionately look at them, upon them, and into them with a willingness to see their innocence and we can see our own.  We will also see the guilt involved, as we see our own guilt. 

If the offense has taken something that can never be replaced, the hardest of all things to forgive - for we want compensation and a wrong, righted - we must release this to the Lord and he, through his Grace, gives us a peaceful heart.  It is of the supernatural when this occurs and nothing in this world of systems will help you to understand how it works.  It just does.  A sincere heart brings sincere blessings and rewards regardless of what things may appear to be, for your reward is not on this earth, but in the kingdom of heaven - the place we seek to belong ultimately.

So when Christ says to forgive your enemy as well as your neighbor, he isn't asking that you forget and not learn a lesson, he is teaching us that to forgive our offenders is to forgive oneself.



 Day Nineteen - Sunday

So where does all our help come from?  Because we see our world with eyes and the external forms around us, we tend to neglect the inner world we feel, hear and sense, but not necessarily see.  We may be thinking, "How do I do this?" and as if on cue, someone shows up with an answer to our question, explaining what we need to know.  Or we are asking "ourselves" what we should do in a situation and later we are hearing inpurt about our situation - and it makes perfect sense.  So, who is answering? 

I remember one morning I was bent over blow-drying
the underside of my hair and I thought, "I should get my big brush to do this."  I then replied to myself, "I'll get it when I'm done with drying the back of my hair."  Then I heard very loudly and strongly, "Go get it now!"  Because this urging was so strong I said, "OK, (as if I'm answering someone in authority that I am rebelling against), I'll go get it now."  I turned off the hair dryer and placed it next to the curling iron.  When I came back I was about to use the blow dryer again and I heard yet another beckoning, "Look at the cord."  So I looked at the cord and sure enough, the plastic was melted down to the wire, if I had turned it back on, I would have surely been electrocuted.  What I realized is that while I was bent over blow drying my hair, the cord was lying across the curling iron, which was at about 450 degrees.  It had melted away the protective plastic and the wires were about to touch the hot curling iron.  If I hadn't gotten my brush when I did, surely I would have been electrocuted.

I found myself in great awe because I realized that my life was saved in that moment, not by a person, not by me, but by a higher force who is protecting and guiding me.  My gratitude and humbleness increased as I contemplated this experience throughout the day and shared the story with a couple others.  One believed it was my "higher self" - a concept I used to engage in that new age way.  What I've come to understand is that my higher self is just that, except it's not necessarily a divided part of my being, rather the higher self, for me these days, is my guardian angel.  Oh, I know, it's much easier to say my higher self is some sort of psychological phenomenon of the human mind; an extension of our intelligence that we know little about than it is to say I have a supernatural being with me from the kingdom of heaven who assists me - but I tend to believe the latter, as I've had sooooooo many experiences and encounters with these beautiful servants of our Lord.

Not all of my experiences have come in life endangering situations, rather they support my walk in this life as I pray for holy guidance daily and I see and experience this holy guidance, daily.  It wasn't something I developed over time, but something the Lord developed in me and with me over time.  I used to think it was coincidental, or psychic, and how mystic that was to believe that I held some sort of power.  But when my abilities were stripped from me, and I was left in a situation that no matter how keen I was, I had no answers, no insight and no revelations - I had to listen to something far beyond my intellectual experience and knowledge of the mystic.  The mystic had no answers, just mysticism.  The psychic had no revelation, just foreshadowing that never made sense and never lined up with the situation around me.  What appeared to be, certainly was not. 

So I deepened my prayer and was led deep into the scriptures - and it was here that I found the answers to not only these gifts bestowed upon me, but how to use them and I learned from Christ one of the greatest gifts he gave to us,



"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate
to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot
accept, because it neither sees nor know it.  But you know it,
because it remains with you, and will be in you." 

John 14:16-17; The New American Bible

"The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name -
he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you." 

John 26; The New American Bible

So when you hear that voice inside, know it comes from our Lord, who is with us, guiding us through his beautiful Holy Spirit and through him he sends his angels to our side to help us along our way.




 Day Twenty - Monday

I found myself preparing to point my finger at these executives and vendors, ready to accuse, ready to condemn their actions.  Then I remembered, only the holy spirit can condemn.  In a conversation with a co-worker we both had been agreeing that the Lord sends us into places for his purpose, even if we don't want to be there.  And there I was 20 minutes later with a checklist of violations against these people. 

Then the saints came marching in.  I heard the Lord's prayer echoing through my thoughts and I could see his angels present and I was very gently reminded that I needed to pray for the people in charge of our food supply.  I needed to remember that the room would soon be full of some of the most influential decision-makers and producers of the food I detest.

It was here where I realized my prayer is heard and being answered for it is these people I must pray the spirit on - and what an opportunity to do so being in the same room and interacting with them.  It's not always easy to pray for the ones you begrudge, but when you take them out of the picture and focus on what's really at hand, you begin to see the power in prayer. 

What I realize is that perhaps through my prayers, the Lord and his angels and saints will reach these hardened minds held by greed, to see what is wrong with the food they make.  Would they feed it to their children without care?  Would they ingest it themselves?  If someone gave them their meal along with a video of how their food is produced and what its ingredients are, would they want to take the next bite?  And if they could see the after effects the food has on their bodies and the illness it contributes to, would they finish the food on their plates? 

Those are the questions I ponder among many others, and I just wonder, will they?  For I've asked the Lord to be present.  I've asked the Lord to get involved and I find it rather interesting I am at this meeting, given this opportunity.  I meet many people and have opportunities to engage the ear of those in high positions.  I wonder whose ear I may receive for my asking and what kind of influence the Lord will give to me to convey to they?  I'm not suggesting I am special, I just know the Lord loves to answer our prayers, especially when they are for other people.  Don't ask me why, I can only say its a form of charity - and grace and mercy is a form of charity.  And if our society does not need grace and mercy, I do not know what it needs.  I also realize, I may not receive any ear, except for His, for it is he who does the work anyway, we merely facilitate, when asked, if we respond.


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