On this, the tenth day of the Christmas Novena, it strikes me that the intention that I have been praying for up to now is too selfish, too self-centered to even be worthwhile to continue to ask God for.
Instead, I am compelled to pray for a different intention; one for our brothers and sisters in the world who are being persecuted for Our Faith.
What prompted the change of heart is a nagging feeling I have had of late regarding the nature of love. I’m not referring to eros, here but instead to the form of love known as caritas in Latin, or agape in Greek.
I once shared the thoughts of Archbishop Fulton Sheen on the various words for love and their meanings. Today is the day that our brother, the good Archbishop, passed on to eternity. When I was reminded of this, the recollection of that post, and this novena came together like ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Since the beginning, we have been called to love one another. It is difficult, and we weren’t getting it right, and God knew we wouldn’t.Even now, loving others is still tough to do. But God had a plan for this, one part of which we celebrated yesterday, and the other, the Incarnation, we will celebrate soon. We have confused ourselves about the meaning of love, and confused it’s nature as something to be guarded jealously for fear it may be stolen, or fear that our hearts will be broken.
But God’s love for us is not that form of love. With His love, we need not guard our hearts and jealously keep them locked away from others. Nor do we need to continually act like mercenaries of love and ask God, “what’s in it for me?” like Ray Kinsella asks Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams. St. Catherine of Sienna discussed this at length in her Dialogues.
I’ve lived life in that manner long enough to know that being a practitioner of mercenary love is a complete waste of time. It certainly, and unequivocally is not the Way.
These sentiments of mine lay dormant until the coming of this Advent season and this novena prayer. Twenty-five days of saying a prayer and asking for the same intention has a way of making you take stock of the intention, see? And today I was prodded into changing mine and sharing my change of heart with you because as I was praying the LOTH today, Psalm 43 came crashing down on my head.
I couldn’t stop thinking about our persecuted brothers and sisters in Iraq after reading these verses,
Unto the end, for the sons of Core, to give understanding.
We have heard, O God, with our ears:
our fathers have declared to us,
The work, thou hast wrought in their days,
and in the days of old.
Thy hand destroyed the Gentiles,
and thou plantedst them:
thou didst afflict the people
and cast them out.
For they got not the possession of the land by their own sword:
neither did their own arm save them.
But thy right hand and thy arm,
and the light of thy countenance:
because thou wast pleased with them.
Thou art thyself my king and my God,
who commandest the saving of Jacob.
Through thee we will push down our enemies with the horn:
and through thy name we will despise them that rise up against us.
For I will not trust in my bow:
neither shall my sword save me.
But thou hast saved us from them that afflict us:
and hast put them to shame that hate us.
In God shall we glory all the day long:
and in thy name we will give praise for ever.
But now thou hast cast us off, and put us to shame:
and thou, O God, wilt not go out with our armies.
Thou hast made us turn our back to our enemies:
and they that hated us plundered for themselves.
Thou hast given us up like sheep to be eaten:
thou hast scattered us among the nations.
Thou hast sold thy people for no price:
and there was no reckoning in the exchange of them.
Thou hast made us a reproach to our neighbors,
a scoff and derision to them that are round about us.
Thou hast made us a byword among the Gentiles:
a shaking of the head among the people.
All the day long my shame is before me:
and the confusion of my face hath covered me,
At the voice of him that reproacheth and detracteth me:
at the face of the enemy and persecutor.
All these things have come upon us,
yet we have not forgotten thee:
and we have not done wickedly in they covenant.
And our heart hath not turned back:
neither hast thou turned aside our steps from thy way.
For thou hast humbled us in the place of affliction:
and the shadow of death hath covered us.
If we have forgotten the name of our God,
and if we have spread forth our hands to a strange god:
Shall not God search out these things?
for he knoweth the secrets of the heart.
Because for thy sake we are killed all the day long:
we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.
Arise, why sleepest thou, O Lord?
arise, and cast us not off to the end.
Why turnest thou face away?
and forgettest our want and our trouble?
For our soul is humbled down to the dust:
our belly cleaveth to the earth.
Arise, O Lord, help us
and redeem us for thy name’s sake.
Do you see what I mean? And I’m not the first to notice that often times the LOTH, has an uncanny way of speaking the words of God to me that I need to hear most, and when I need to hear them. And I believe the answers to these prayers are seen in the short readings included for Terce, Sext, and None as well.
He will stand and feed his flock with the power of the Lord, with the majesty of the name of his God. They will live secure, for from then on he will extend his power to the ends of the land. He himself will be peace (Micah 5:4-5).
A little while now, and I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. The new glory of this Temple is going to surpass the old, and in this place I will give peace – it is the Lord of Hosts who speaks(Haggai 2:6,9).
For you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays; you will leap like calves going out to pasture. You will trample on the wicked, who will be like ashes under your feet on the day I am preparing, says the Lord of Hosts (Malachi 3:20-21).
Thanks be to God.
The St. Andrew Christmas Novena can be found here.