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A Summer Respite

21 July 2019

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Summer is well under way. According to the meteorological measurement, which is based on the annual temperature cycle, we are almost halfway through the season. According to the astronomical measurement, based on the position of Earth in relation to the sun, there is a lot more of summer to go. In any case it has been very hot. And that seems to make it a perfect time to sit back, relax, put our feet up and not work up more of sweat than is absolutely necessary. We’re ready, in other words, to take a much‑needed break ‑‑ from the cares and worries that surround us, from seemingly endless pressures and hassles, and from the “daily grind.”

But during our summer respite, it’s important that we not take a break from God and from regular attendance at worship! In the denomination to which I belong we sometimes facetiously say that we “are the only people God trusts enough to take summers off from church”. I’ve heard people in other denominations make similar jests. I’m not sure how this situation came to be, but the notion of a summer hiatus from church attendance has been around for much longer than I have.

While our tendency toward negligence in summer worship certainly might not seem to represent the most egregious of sins (it definitely is not murder), it nonetheless reflects a disturbing pattern that has been replicated time and again throughout salvation history. Indeed, the Scriptures tell us that the desire and tendency to “take a break” from God have been around since the very dawn of creation. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the Old Testament Book of Judges, in which the following pattern is repeated numerous times: The Israelites initially revel in God’s graciousness toward them and they prosper; during these good times of prosperity, they gradually come to forget about God; them they subsequently turn toward sin and begin to worship false idols; after-which some great calamity befalls them; they consequently find themselves in anguish and repentantly cry out to God for mercy (“Remember your people….”); and finally, God lovingly redeems them.

Now, I am not saying that slacking off in worship attendance during summertime is the same as sinning with wild and reckless abandon. Certainly not! But I am suggesting that in taking summers off from God and from worship, we are mimicking ‑‑ at least to some small degree ‑‑ the tendency toward waywardness that the Israelites demonstrated in Judges. It is indeed strange behavior. After all, in no other truly meaningful relationships in our lives, such as those with family, friends and loved ones, do we find ourselves saying, “Hey, listen: I’m just going to go away for a couple of months. You don’t have any say in the matter. I’ll talk to you when I get back.” Huh? How would you expect your spouse or other close family member to say about that kind of behavior? And then to make matters worse, we frequently have the gumption to offer this parting shot: “Oh, and by the way, while I’m gone, I’m sure that that my absence will not affect my relationship with you God. But just in case anything bad happens to me, I expect you to track me down and do everything in your power to help me out.”

Of course, the truly miraculous thing in all of this is that God takes it. God takes it. Time after time after time, God patiently and lovingly honors the divine covenant with us, even when we, God’s stubborn and often all too headstrong children, don’t quite keep up our end of the bargain. But that’s because God is a loving God.

This summer maybe we should be all about that kind of love too?

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20 July 2019

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“I have made a contract with my body. It has promised to accept harsh treatment from me on earth, and I have promised that it shall receive eternal rest in heaven.”

St. Peter of Alcantara

Albert the Great: “the path of love, which is charity”

19 July 2019

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“It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man, and man to God. But where charity is not found, God cannot dwell. If, then, we possess charity, we possess God, for “God is Charity.”‘

St. Albert of Cologne

Antony the Great: “our turning aside from the way”

18 July 2019

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“I tell you truly, my beloved, that our carelessness and our humiliation and our turning aside from the way are not a loss to us only, but they are a weariness for the angels and for the saints in Jesus Christ. Our humiliation gives grief to them all, and our salvation gives joy and refreshment to them all.”

St. Antony the Great

Richard of Chichester: “all the benefits Thou hast given me”

17 July 2019

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A prayer by St. Richard of Chichester

Zefirino Agostini: “Do not be dismayed by toil or suffering”

16 July 2019

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“Do not be dismayed by toil or suffering, nor by the meager fruit of your labours. Remember that God rewards not according to results, but effort.”

Blessed Zefirino Agostini

Colette of Corbie: “suffering, patiently endured”

15 July 2019

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“If there be a true way that leads to the Everlasting Kingdom, it is most certainly that of suffering, patiently endured.”

St. Colette of Corbie