17th February, 2021
Come, ring out our joy to the Lord; hail the rock who saves us.
Let us come before him, giving thanks, with songs let us hail the Lord.
A mighty God is the Lord, a great king above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his.
To him belongs the sea, for he made it and the dry land shaped by his hands.
Come in; let us bow and bend low; let us kneel before the God who made us
for he is our God and we the people who belong to his pasture, the flock that is led by his hand.
O that today you would listen to his voice !
Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as on that day at Massah in the desert
when your fathers put me to the test; when they tried me, though they saw my work.
For forty years I was wearied of these people and I said:
“Their hearts are astray, these people do not know my ways.”
Then I took an oath in my anger: “Never shall they enter my rest.”
LITANY OF PRAISE:
We give thanks to you, O mighty God !
SCRIPTURE READING: Isaiah 58:6-12
Is not this the sort of fast that pleases me – it is the Lord who speaks –
to break unjust fetters and undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke,
to share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor,
to clothe the man you see to be naked and not turn from your own kin ?
Then will your light shine like the dawn
and your wound be quickly healed over.
Your integrity will go before you and the glory of the Lord behind you.
Cry, and the Lord will answer; call, and he will say, ‘I am here’.
If you do away with the yoke, the clenched fist, the wicked word,
if you give your bread to the hungry, and relief to the oppressed,
your light will rise in the darkness, and your shadows become like the noon.
The Lord will always guide you, giving you relief in desert places.
He will give strength to your bones and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water whose waters never run dry. The word of the Lord.
REFLECTION: (Henri Nouwen)
God’s mercy is greater than our sins. There is an awareness of sin that does not lead to God but to self-preoccupation. Our temptation is to be so impressed by our sins and failings and so overwhelmed by our lack of generosity that we get stuck in paralysing guilt. It is the guilt that says: ‘I am too sinful to deserve God’s mercy.’ It is the guilt that leads to introspection instead of directing our eyes to God. It is the guilt that has become an idol and therefore a form of pride. Lent is the time to break down this idol and to direct our attention to our loving Lord. The question is: ‘Are we like Judas, who was so overcome by sin that he could not believe in God’s mercy and hanged himself, or are we like Peter who returned to his Lord with repentance and cried bitterly for his sins ? The season of Lent, during which winter and spring struggle with each other for dominance, helps us in a special way to cry out for God’s mercy.
INTERCESSIONS: Lord, in your mercy . . . Hear our prayer
CLOSING PRAYER: (Henri Nouwen)
The Lenten season begins, Lord. It is time to be with you in a special way, a time to pray, to fast, and thus to follow you on your way to Jerusalem, to Golgotha and to the final victory over death.
I am still so divided. I truly want to follow you, but I also want to follow my own desires and lend an ear to the voices that speak about prestige, success, human respect, pleasure, power and influence. Help me to become deaf to these voices and more attentive to your voice, which calls me to choose the narrow road to life. The choice for your way has to be made every moment of my life. I have to choose thoughts that are your thoughts, words that are your words, and actions that are your actions. There are no times or places without choices. And I know how deeply I resist choosing you.
Please, Lord, be with me at every moment and in every place. Give me the strength and the courage to live this season faithfully, so that, when Easter comes, I will be able to taste with joy the new life which you have prepared for me. Amen.