Tuesday 12 April: Lent 2011

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You are encouraged to pray the prayer, pause, read the scripture, pause, read the reflection, and then pray the prayer again.

The Breastplate Prayer

May the yoke of the Law of God be upon this shoulder,
The coming of the Holy Spirit be on this head,
The sign of Christ be on this forehead,
The hearing of the Holy Spirit be in these ears,
The smelling of the Holy Spirit in this nose.
The vision that the people of heaven have be in these eyes,
The speech of the people of heaven in this mouth,
The work of the Church of God in these hands
The good of God and of neighbour in these feet.
May God dwell in this heart,
And this person belong entirely to God the Father.

‘May the good of God and of neighbour be in these feet’

Mark 12:28-34

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

In today’s prayer we fuse together the Divine Good and the common good. When asked for the most important command in the Jewish law, Jesus replied: ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and your neighbour as yourself.’

Jesus was asked for one but answered with two commands, because neither command is truly fulfilled unless both are fulfilled. Because of this, James refuses to honour with the name ‘faith’ any spirituality that fails to express itself in works of love towards ones neighbour. With the same understanding, John declares anyone claiming ‘love for God’ while failing to love his brethren to be a liar. So we are in good company in binding these two ‘goods’ together.

The implication is that whether I am to bless family, friends, colleagues or strangers will depend entirely on where my feet take me. Will my feet take me to the hospital to comfort the suffering friend or acquaintance? Might my feet take me to the charity shop, to the post office, or to the railway arches to give clothes to the naked? Will my feet walk me to my neighbour who might otherwise spend another day without company? Will they take me to a meeting place where relationships can build and conversations deepen?

It was said of Aidan that he never travelled by horse, preferring always to journey by foot. He was provided with horses but gave them away because he so valued the opportunities created by travelling by foot. On foot we can slow down for that spontaneous greeting or contact with a friend or stranger, noble or poor man.  On foot we can slow it right down to the point where a longer or deeper conversation can happen, with all the possibilities that might flow out of that.

Consider: where do your feet take you from day to day and from week to week, and at what speed do they carry you? Both factors will be altered if you truly:

‘Let the good of God and of neighbour be in these feet’.