I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws
(Psalm 119 verse 7)
This psalm reminds us that our happiness and fulfilment comes from living good lives grounded in God. In a society which has mixed motives about discipline, it is important to remind ourselves that the Christian way is founded upon selfless behaviour that encourages us to live well in community. Part of the journey of Lent is to remind ourselves where we have failed to live well and therefore diminished our own humanity and constrained others in their journey of faith.
St Benedict, in creating a model of Christian community, encouraged his followers by saying:
And so we are going to establish a school for the service of the Lord
(Prologue to the Benedictine Rule)
You will note that he did not say a school for personal edification but for the service of the Lord.
So what is this service of the Lord? It is to love God and to love our neighbour as ourself.
In this respect, the centre of our education is to live in the love of God and to share the knowledge of his salvation. The Lenten journey reminds us of our own personal schooling as we follow our heavenly Father who expressed his love by sending his Son to live amongst us, to die upon the cross and bring us to eternal life. Our schooling, or education, therefore requires an acknowledgment that love always carries a cost. The greatest cost is the giving of ourselves that we may receive His love.
The fruit of that love will be to model the Father’s love and build up the values of Christian community as a sign of the Kingdom of God.
The Christian way, therefore, can be seen as counter-cultural because it requires people to give more than to grasp. It requires people to place God at the centre of their lives rather than their ego. It requires us always to see Christ in the other person whom we are called to serve.
I hope that you will be able to use Lent as a time to educate yourself (with others) in developing your understanding of sacrificial love. In a Christian context, this is known as formation, where we conform our character to the will of Christ. This requires both prayer and study. The Gospels provide us with a challenging overview of how we may live but also there many parts of the Epistles which give us practical guidelines on how to live the Christian life abundantly. Therefore, I hope in your personal devotions, or in group work, you will reflect upon practical ways of shaping your own personal conduct and those of your church community into a school of service for the Lord. This is an essential step in our mission.
To return to the Psalm:
I run in the path of your command, for you have broadened my understanding.
(Psalm 119 verse 32)
We are reminded that by following God’s teachings, we can have a much wider perspective on life and how we are called to serve others. I hope that by reflecting on our personal formation and also contributing to the educational welfare of those children in the Highveld, we can make this Lent a time of practical praise to our heavenly Father who continually guides us and invites us to share in His mission of love.
With every blessing for a fruitful Lent,