- Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.
- I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.
- Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.
- If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
- By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.
- As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.
- John 15: 4-9
In the atrium, right before their first confessions, the children gather with their parents and meditate on the the true vine. It is my favorite of five preparatory meditations. I will never tire of watching the "ah ha" in the eyes of children (and, frankly, their parents) when they see that God is the sturdy vine that supports healthy gowth and He also prunes so that they will bear much fruit.
Lent is a time of pruning. Before the rapid growth of springtime, before the burst of joy at Easter, He prunes. I have been blessed in Lents past. I have been blessed with a gracious God who cares so much for me that He made clear to me what I must do lest I wither and die. Last year, He showed me how to prune away the branches in my life that were keeping me from spending time in Him, from remaining in Him. He showed me that there is a difference between talking about religion and being drawn into the very being of Jesus Himself.
I turned to the timeless prayers of the Church, to scripture, and to the wisdom of the saints of old. I went again and again and again, with the rhythm of a well-practiced monk, to the Liturgy of the Hours. And there, I lingered, remaining in Him. Easter found me clinging to God.
Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.
Lent is a gift. A grace. An opportunity. Lent calls us to Him.
Lent is a chance for a Love Dare like no other. It's a chance to let the God prune and then to water us with His grace. It's also a chance to rest in Him, to stop trying to struggle under our own strength and let His love be sufficient be more than enough. It's a time to surrender to the love of God. A woman cannot have a love affair with a stranger. She cannot have a love affair with someone she knows only through the teaching of other people.
In order to be in love with God, she has to remain in Him. But how? How to remain in God? How to know Him so well that she rests in Him, abides in Him? How to be always with God?
To be ignorant of scripture is to be ignorant of God.
“The Gospel,” they explained, “is to be understood not as a book or a doctrine, but rather as a person: Jesus Christ, the definitive Word of God, who made himself a man.”
To know God as a person–to have a relationship–she must know Scripture. And not just a little, not just as read from the missal. Not just on Sundays. But really, really know it. Know it so well that she rests in it, that it is the background music to her life, every minute of her life. Know it so well that it abides in her and she in it.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you..
I want to breathe the Word of God to the point where I don't know where I stop and He begins.
Have you ever met someone like that? Someone truly united, truly remaining in God? It's an amazing thing to behold. She walks in grace. She blesses with her smile, with her gestures, with her words. She lives the life for which she is created because she is the genuine image of God He intended her to be.
I want that.
So, yes, this Lent is about Scripture, with the sure idea that this is not a temporary Lenten habit but a lifetime habit.
I know that in order to make time for Him, I will have to again prune away those things rob time, waste time. I will have to quiet the voices that do nothing to bring me closer to God and nothing to help me hear Him. And then I will make some conscious choices.
There will still be that Lenten spring cleaning list (For those of you to whom I promised it, I haven't forgotten. An unexpected death this week has our family schedule making way for mourning and funeral. Maybe next week I can share). God will accompany me as I clean. I've downloaded an amazing new audio dramatization of the RSV Bible to my computer and my iPod. I can listen as I deep clean corners, as I fold laundry, as I clear clutter. And if my children happen to be with me, all the better. They can listen, too. I start the day's listening every day with Colossians, because I promised a friend I'd memorize with her and I'm woefully behind where I should be by now. And then, I move on to the Gospels.
I'm focusing on the Gospel of Matthew because that's the Church's focus this year. So, it's Matthew again and again in my listening, until it's a part of me. The children and I are memorizing large chunks of the Gospel of Matthew together, using a simple system. I fully admit that I have exploited the ridiculous competitive spirit in this family to motivate some major memorizing. Whatever it takes. I think this gift of the Word could be the greatest gift we ever give our children.
The books baskets have been stuffed with Bible story books and children's Bibles. And I will make time, several times a day, to read them aloud in unhurried, joy-filled moments with my own dear loves. (I hope to make a list of New Testament story picture books to share with you very soon–feel free to email me with your favorites.)
There are Bibles in nearly every room of my house and we've recently begun to consult several translations and commentaries and a Bible dictionary whenever something comes up in conversation. These moments of discovery are joys with older children.
And then there is that lovely electronic version on my Kindle. A Bible everywhere I go.
Lenten reading this year? Oh, it's so much more than just Lenten reading.
The Word of God.