DT 30: 15-20
PS 1: 1-2, 3, 4, AND 6
I have decided of late that I like to play with fire. This is certainly true in the physical sense as I love what fire does. Fire provides warmth, and there is also beauty in the way that it burns at varying degrees. And chemically it is present both on earth and within the larger universe. But, I am speaking metaphorically as well. Sometimes I play with heart fire and the connectivity through which relationships are made. It is both a dangerous game and an awareness exercise for me, and at the present moment God is teaching me about myself in relationship to fire.
Specifically my prayer life is leading me to more deeply understand the rootedness of broken relationships in the human story, and how false gods and self-centeredness distract us from both reality and the gifts that the Lord wishes to bestow on us in our daily lives. These themes also resound in today’s scripture readings.
In the first reading, we hear “today, I have set before you life and death, prosperity and doom…if you obey the commandments of the Lord…you will live and grow numerous…if, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen, but adore and serve other gods…you will not have a long life” (Deut. 30: 15-18). And in the gospel Jesus tells us “if anyone wishes to follow after me,” (Luke 9:23) he or she must deny self, take up the cross and follow.
In the Old Testament, the god Ba’al often tempted the Israelites to turn away from God. The first reading today is an exhortation from the Lord that Moses delivers to the people. We might recall the golden calf and think of ourselves more superior, for seriously, who in our time worships a golden calf? Yet, culturally, our era is filled with golden calves that take on different shapes and sizes. We have phones, computers, television shows, other people that we falsely form into gods or goddesses, busyness, and perhaps the most subtle idol of all, our own self-centeredness.
Relational fire is necessary if we are going to connect to each other and to God, for it is in others that we begin to perceive the brilliance of God’s face. But it is also true that our perceptions often miss reality and we fail to see others as they truly are. Sometimes we make people into gods or goddesses while at other times we miss the giftedness present in our brothers and sisters as we focus on our own ailments, struggles and needs.
God invites us into right relationship with the Blessed Trinity, others, and our true self through prayer. The poet James Montgomery (1771-1854) wrote “prayer is the soul’s sincere desire/uttered or unexpressed/the motion of a hidden fire/that trembles in the breast” (1819). The poem continues beautifully and is attached here on YouTube as a hymn.
As we begin this Lenten season, God invites us to put ourselves aside in order that our eyes might begin to see beyond our own plights and worldviews. We begin this Lenten fast with a resolve to be revived back into communion with each other and to God. What are some gods in your life that take away from right relationship with the Lord and others? And how does your Lenten fast reflect your own needs and desires? Let us journey together and pray for new hearts refined as though through fire so that we are able to perceive the world beyond ourselves--a world in great need of transformation and deep love.
Christy Hicks is a Campus Minister in Griesedieck Complex.