At the monastery, we pray all 150 psalms in a two-week cycle because they were Jesus’ hymnbook. Today’s psalm is terribly repetitious: Various phrases keep saying the same thing—be obedient, walk in God’s ways, keep God’s commandments. Yet, on another level, such repetition is like a rosary that keeps repeating, “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus.” Russian spirituality features a repetition of the Jesus Prayer (e.g. “Lord, have mercy on me”) at least a thousand times a day. Many of us have experienced hearing a song in the morning that we are unable to shake out of our minds as it continues to play itself over and over. “Pray without ceasing,” instructs Paul (1 Thess. 5:17). But how is that possible? By choosing a sentence, phrase, or even a word—a mantra—and repeating it in the morning until it is sufficiently installed so that it echoes on its own all day, almost impossible to stop.
For this spiritual discipline, it is wise to choose a mantra that expresses best what one most urgently needs to learn if one’s life is to be changed. Amid my anxieties, doubts, and wavering, I know what I most need to repeat, until belief crowds out unbelief, that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39). One’s mantra is a discipline that not only can evoke God’s constant presence but also aid in contemplation for halting our minds from taking weedy paths of diversion.
On this day in 1591, Ralph Milner, an elderly illiterate English farmer, was executed. Earlier, after receiving Holy Communion for the first time, he felt called to shepherd priests illegally from place to place to provide the Eucharist for others. Lord, is Communion really that meaningful for me? Must you ask? Amen.
Even great people in the faith have moments of imperfection. Not all biblical stories are biblical examples. Jacob should have fed his brother out of concern, but he takes advantage of the situation and robs Esau of his birthright. The psalmist asks the Lord to show him how to live. God’s word is a lamp to his feet and a light to his path. Paul in Romans contrasts the life of the flesh and the life in the Spirit. Without the power of God, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes in the flesh; but the Spirit sets us free. Jesus reminds us in Matthew that the effectiveness of the gospel is not based on our efforts. We sow the seed, but we cannot control whether it takes root.
Read Genesis 25:19-34. How do you experience God’s “nevertheless”—God’s grace—as you work through the baggage of your birthright?
Read Isaiah 55:10-13. How might experiencing moments as if for the last time bring the joy of a first-time experience?
Read Romans 8:1-11. In learning what spiritual practices strengthen you, what practices did you try that did not work? Now that you know what works, how might working on practices you once found unhelpful grow your faith?
Read Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. In what unexpected place might you sow seeds of God’s love?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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