“Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that … our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; …” (Collect for Fifth Sunday in Lent, from A Monastic Breviary, 1976 Holy Cross Publications)
An appropriate prayer for this Sunday as we move on to the end of Lent, and as many of us grow weary of our efforts! This little story illustrates how we often react:
On a visit to Toronto some years ago, the temperature averaged minus five degrees going down to minus thirteen at night. One morning, after a snowfall overnight, I was looking out of the window as the plows went up and down the avenue clearing the roadway. I saw a man walking with his dog, out to exercise his pet in spite of the weather situation. They crossed the street and it appeared that they would continue up the opposite road. But, as they reached the sidewalk the dog sat down and refused to move! The man gently pulled on the leash to no avail. The dog would not budge. Snow was still falling, and it was cold. The man bent down, talking to the dog, but still no movement resulted. He stood upright and tried once more to continue walking. The dog still refused to move. Then the man crouched down, with his hands on the dog’s head, and continued talking to the animal. Finally, the dog got up and trotted off behind his master.
It would have been easy for that man to get angry with the dog, but he did not do that. He understood the dog’s hesitation. We often behave like that dog as we encounter strange and unwelcome situations in life. We find ourselves facing challenges that are unpleasant and cause us fear and concern. We find that we have to walk roads that are strange and difficult. Sometimes, like that dog we sit down and refuse to go any further. The wonderful thing is that God never gives up on us. God is patient, waiting for us to come to ourselves and continue on the journey. God talks gently to us and gives us a chance to come to terms with ourselves and where we are, so that we can make our own choice about moving on. In our times of despondency and depression, when we cannot help ourselves, God never leaves us alone. The patience of God never ends. God waits with us, until we can respond and eagerly follow along the road where new adventures, new experiences of life await us.
Let us evaluate where we are at this point in the Lenten season; being honest as to whether we are just sitting down, like that dog in the snow, or whether we are walking on down the road in company with our Lord and Master, knowing the Love which God always offers to us.
“… as we progress in this monastic way of life and in faith, our hearts will warm to its vision and with eager love and delight that defies expression we shall go forward on the way of God’s commandments. … so that through patience we may be granted some part in Christ’s own passion and thus in the end receive a share in his kingdom. …”
— Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict, 2003 Canterbury Press Norwich)