Perhaps some of you have great-uncle Marmaduke still with you this fifth day of Christmas?! Maybe he is rapidly becoming a real burden and testing your Christmas spirit ... drinking...
Last week it was suggested that we need to really put God in command of our lives – be able to happily say, Here I am …. Look Ma, no hands. We also reflected on the fact that whatever our Lenten endeavours may be they should liberate, set us free. Then, on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday it was emphasised that our Lenten practices, while individual, must be firmly integrated into the community of believers, the CHURCH!
Lent is also a season of renewal, conversion and repentance for the Church. This fact, too often, is forgotten by the leaders and preachers who minister in the community. It is a vicious circle – if I do not make progress in personal renewal, conversion and liberation then I am a weak link in the Church’s progress in the same.
So this week we all need to focus on two short phrases which appear in
OUR PSALM  and in the NEW TESTAMENT EXTRACT [1 CORINTHIANS 1: 22 – 25]. In the Psalm, the response we hear is “Lord, you have the words of eternal life.” In the New Testament extract Paul speaks of “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
Both these quotations should empower us to take our hands off the steering bar. The second stanza of our Psalm provides additional encouragement:
“The precepts of the Lord are right;
they gladden the heart.
The command of the Lord is clear;
it gives light to the eyes.”
Why is it that at the very first wobble of the wheel we take grab the bar in panic, and put ourselves back in command
I am a fan of Robert Frost, one of America’s most famous poets. In a poem entitled ‘Directive’ he speaks of a derelict farmhouse he often visits on his long rambles through the woods. He keeps a broken cup hidden near the well of the shack, and uses it to take water and slake his thirst. In this derelict, forgotten and neglected place the poet writes: “here is your drinking cup, here are your waters and your watering place. Drink and be whole again.”
The season of Lent should be a time when we ramble through the woods – alone but in union with other ‘alone ramblers’. Together we make up the Church. It is in and with the community that I must find my watering place. I am not running a marathon on my own – and for
my personal, individual, health. However, the Church – every single parish – must provide the drinking cup and the waters. Our Lenten Season ends at the Easter Vigil during which adults are baptised and received into full communion with the Church. If the Parish, with its individual members as a community, has not made a concerted effort to revitalise itself, what sort of communion are we offering?
We must not simply be going through the routine and habit of Lent, focussing on externals, old customs and rituals which are somewhat meaningless (and often exclusive) in our contemporary world. Look at TODAY’S GOSPEL [JOHN 2: 13 – 25]. The Jews had their Temple but was it a real watering place which provided drinking cups for its members? In fact, was the Temple even recognised as a sign and symbol of the believing community? The Temple, a building, no matter how grand, had become more important than the hidden realities it signified. If we, as a Church, are only interested in signs and / or ‘clever’ thoughts and rules, then we are lost in the woods, unable to see the wood for the trees. (see the New Testament extract)
Lent must teach me to know where my drinking cup really is, and where the well is