Wednesday, March 26, 2014 – Week of 3 Lent, Year Two
[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 119:97-120 (morning) // 81, 82 (evening)
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Just about a decade ago, a Buddhist meditation instructor told me and my fellow meditation students that his teaching should make us feel lighter, not heavier. We shouldn’t leave his lessons feeling overloaded with information, burdened with notes and books, or weighted down by puzzles for further investigation. Instead, we should feel lightened, illumined, set free.
Sometimes I remember to listen to the teachings of Jesus with a similar mindset: the gospel should make us feel lighter, not heavier. If I feel the words of Jesus start to sit heavy on my soul, I know that I need to examine the spirit in which I am listening. The teachings of Jesus should lift burdens and brush away whatever distracts us from the kingdom. They shouldn’t saddle us with guilt and joyless obligations.
Today’s second reading reminded me that Paul, like the Buddhist meditation teacher, also gives us advice for how we should receive his teaching. He says, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Paul is often a philosophically complex writer, and his letters and the letters attributed to him have helped Christians to probe the theological mysteries of how salvation works.
But here’s the thing: We can only receive the message of our teachers if we acquire the disposition that they ask of us. Paul doesn’t want us to inflate ourselves with knowledge. Paul wants us to strengthen ourselves in love. Paul’s intent is not to give us wisdom that will make us superior to others but to help us cultivate a concern for others.
Further, Paul has troubling words for those of us who pursue knowledge: “Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge.” Yet Paul goes on to say, “but anyone who loves God is known by him.” Our goal in reading the Scriptures is not to acquire knowledge but to grow in love and to allow God to know us through that love.
Before we approach the Scriptures or any other source of knowledge and wisdom, we might do well to take a moment to ask for the attitude of heart and mind that our teachers most desire to give us. Our hearts and minds can feel lighter, not heavier. Our hearts and minds can be built up in love rather than inflated—along with our egos—by knowledge.
Then, we can truly open ourselves to the love of God, which is what our teachers long to teach us more than anything else. It’s not so much what we learn, but how we listen that matters.
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.