The blessing of discipline.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
This Sunday we enter the Third full week of our Lenten Season. How are your Lenten sacrifices assisting your interior life? Hopefully, you are experiencing fruitful self-denial and growing in acts of service toward God and neighbor!
I also hope you find your Lenten practices to be challenging. Sacrifices that challenge one to change a bad habit or grow into a good habit are rewarding. Furthermore, challenging sacrifices can yield spiritual fruit and lead to experiences of joyful gratitude to God! In other words, the blessing of discipline during Lent leads to the joy of Easter!
This week I share with you a sermon by St. John Chrysostom, bishop, (b. 344 - d.407) on the rewards and importance of a daily habit of prayer.
“Prayer and converse with God is a supreme good: it is a partner-ship and union with God. As the eyes of the body are enlightened when they see light, so our spirit, when it is intent on God, is illumined by his infinite light. I do not mean the prayer of outward observance but prayer from the heart, not confined to fixed times or periods but continuous throughout the day and night.
Our spirit should be quick to reach out toward God, not only when it is engaged in meditation; at other times also, when it is carrying out its duties, caring for the needy, performing works of charity, giving generously in the service of others, our spirit should long for God and call him to mind, so that these works may be seasoned with the salt of God’s love, and so make a palatable offer-ing to the Lord of the universe. Throughout the whole of our lives we may enjoy the benefit that comes from prayer if we devote a great deal of time to it.
Prayer is the light of the spirit, true knowledge of God, mediating between God and man. The spirit, raised up to heaven by prayer, clings to God with the utmost tenderness; like a child crying tear-fully for its mother, it craves the milk that God provides. It seeks the satisfaction of its own desires, and receives gifts outweighing the whole world of nature.
Prayer stands before God as an honored ambassador. It gives joy to the spirit, peace to the heart. I speak of prayer, not words. It is the longing for God, love too deep for words, a gift not given by man but by God’s grace. The apostle Paul says: We do not know how we are to pray but the Spirit himself pleads for us with inexpressible longings. (Rom 8:26)
When the Lord gives this kind of prayer to a man, he gives him riches that cannot be taken away, heavenly food that satisfies the spirit. One who tastes this food is set on fire with an eternal long-ing for the Lord: his spirit burns as in a fire of utmost intensity.
Practice prayer from the beginning. Paint your house with the colors of modesty and humility. Make it radiant with the light of justice. Decorate it with the finest gold leaf of good deeds. Adorn it with the walls and stones of faith and generosity. Crown it with the pinnacle of prayer. In this way you will make it a perfect dwelling place for the Lord. You will be able to receive him as in a splendid palace, and through his grace you will already possess him, his image enthroned in the temple of your spirit.”
Through the intercession of Mary, Help of Christians, St. Joseph, St. Michael and St. Paul, may God bless us with the graces we each need to grow in holiness this Lenten Season!
In Christ through Mary,