During the third week of Lent, Frank and I focus on “Generosity” in A Spring in the Desert. In specific, we write about giving and tithes. We have chosen generosity as the opposite of covetousness, one of the Seven Deadly Sins.
Covetousness covers a number of things that might not first come to mind when one considers this sin. According to the St. Augustine’s Prayer Book, these are:
COVETOUSNESS is the refusal to respect the integrity of other creatures, expressed in the inordinate accumulation of material things; in the use of other persons for our personal advantage; or in the quest for status, power or security at their expense.
Inordinate Ambition. Pursuit of status, power, influence, reputation, or possessions at the expense of the moral law, of other obligations, or of the rights of others. Ruthless or unfair competition. Putting self or family first. Conformity to standards we recognize as wrong or inadequate in order to get ahead. Intrigue or conspiracy for self-advancement.
Domination. Seeking to use or possess others. Over protection of children; refusal to correct or punish lest we lose their affection; insistence that they conform to our ideal for them contrary to their own vocation. Imposing our will on others by force, guile, whining, or refusal to cooperate. Over-readiness to advise or command; abuse of authority. Patronizing, pauperizing, putting others under a debt of gratitude, or considering ourselves ill-used when others’ affection or compliance is not for sale. Respect of persons, favoritism, partiality, flattery, fawning, or bribery to win support or affection. Refusal to uphold the truth to fulfill duties, to perform good acts, or to defend those wrongfully attacked, because we fear criticism or ridicule, or because we seek to gain the favor or approval of others. Leading, tempting or encouraging another to sin.
Avarice. Inordinate pursuit of wealth or material things. Theft, dishonesty, misrepresentation, or sharing in stolen goods. Cheating in business, taxes, school or games. Making worldly success the goal of our life or the standard for judging others.
Prodigality. Waste of natural resources or personal possessions. Extravagance or living beyond our income, to impress others or to maintain status. Failure to pay debts. Gambling more than we can afford to lose, or to win unearned profits. Unnecessary borrowing or carelessness with others’ money. Expenditure on self of what is needed for the welfare of others.
Penuriousness. Undue protection of wealth or security. Selfish insistence on vested interests or on claimed rights. Refusal to support or help those who have a claim on us. Sponging on others. Stinginess. Failure to give due proportion of our income to Church and charity, or of our time and energy to good works. Failure to pay pledges promised to the Church or charities, when able to do so.
Kind of eye-opening, isn’t it, especially considering it is just one of seven sins? If I am ever feeling a little holier than thou, all I have to do is open up the St. Augustine’s Prayer Book to the Self-examination, and I quickly regain some humility.
But the Third Week in Lent is about generosity and giving. I think this poem by the Poet Laureate of Arizona says it well:
When Giving Is All We Have
Alberto Ríos – 1952-
One river gives
Its journey to the next.
We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.
We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.
We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—
Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.
Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:
Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.
You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me
What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made
Something greater from the difference.
The lesson of not judging others is an incredibly difficult one to learn. It is human to struggle with being critical about others or to look down on those we deem to be spiritually or morally inferior. Unfortunately, it is impossible to fully love God and experience spiritual freedom if we do not love others, including our enemies, without any kind of judgment.
A lack of judgment, on the other hand, is not the same as discernment, which is a spiritual gift. For example, discernment might lead me to stop associating with someone who causes me to fall into some type of sin, either because of that person’s sinful habits or my own sinful inclinations. In not associating with that person, I do not condemn them, but rather I know it is not beneficial for me be with them.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:16 that we should “be wise as serpents (use discernment) and as innocent as doves (don’t judge or condemn people when we happen to notice their faults)”. An excellent start toward living into that is to prioritize not judging others. Using discernment will help us to realize our own sinfulness, which, in turn, will deepen our purity of heart. Being aware of our own sinfulness should help lead us to genuine repentance.
Interestingly, the New Testament Daily Office reading for Saturday was from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians and spoke on this very thing. In Chapter 4 it reads: 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. 4 I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.
This week in A Spring in the Desert, we write about “Forgiveness” and “Judgement”. Below, you will find some quotes from the Desert Fathers that address these subjects:
ISAAC THE THEBAN
One day Abba Isaac went to a monastery. He saw a brother committing a sin and he condemned him. When he returned to the desert, an angel of the Lord came and stood in front of the door of his cell, and said, ‘I will not let you enter.’
But Isaac persisted saying, ‘What is the matter?’
The angel replied, ‘God has sent me to ask you where you want to throw the guilty brother whom you have condemned.’
Immediately Isaac repented and said, ‘I have sinned, forgive me.’
Then the angel said, ‘Get up, God has forgiven you. But from now on, be careful not to judge someone before God has done so.’
THEOPHILUS THE ARCHBISHOP
Theophilus was asked, ‘Father, in this way of life which you follow, what do you find to be best?’
Theophilus replied, ‘The act of accusing myself, and of constantly reproaching myself to myself…There is no other way but this.’
MOSES THE BLACK
If we are on the watch to see our own faults, we shall not see those of our neighbor…To die to one’s neighbor is this: To bear your own faults and not to pay attention to anyone else wondering whether they are good or bad. Do no harm to anyone, do not think anything bad in your heart towards anyone, do not scorn the man who does evil…Do not rail against anyone, but rather say, ‘God knows each one.’ Do not agree with him who slanders, do not rejoice at his slander, and do not hate him who slanders his neighbor.
A man may seem to be silent, but if his heart is condemning others he is babbling ceaselessly. But there may be another who talks from morning till night and yet he is truly silent; that is, he says nothing that is not profitable.
Frank and I have a new book coming out for Lent 2020 called A Spring in the Desert:
Jesus stepped out of the water of baptism into uninhabitable wilderness, emerging forty days later to offer the water of life for those thirsting for God’s presence. A little more than two centuries later, a group of Christians withdrew from a spiritually barren Roman Empire to find their faith blossom in the stony soil of the Egyptian desert.
We offer a Lenten journey inspired by the many passages of scripture that use images of water in the desert as a sign of the healing and wholeness that come through God alone. To this we add the distilled wisdom of the Desert Mothers and Fathers and the surprisingly rich inspiration of the plants and animals that thrive in an arid land. Along the way, we share the ways our faith speaks to the barren places in our lives and how those times of drought can be a source of strength.
You can preorder it here: A Spring in the Desert
We have also created a video class to go along with it featuring 20 5-minute classes; See the intro video here:
Upon an obscure night
Fevered with Love’s anxiety
(O hapless, happy plight!)
I went, none seeing me,
Forth from my house, where all things quiet be.
By night, secure from sight
And by a secret stair, disguisedly,
(O hapless, happy plight!)
By night, and privily
Forth from my house, where all things quiet be.
Blest night of wandering
In secret, when by none might I be spied,
Nor I see anything;
Without a light to guide
Save that which in my heart burnt in my side.
That light did lead me on,
More surely than the shining of noontide
Where well I knew that One
Did for my coming bide;
Where He abode might none but He abide.
O night that didst lead thus,
O night more lovely than the dawn of light;
O night that broughtest us,
Lover to lover’s sight,
Lover to loved, in marriage of delight!
Upon my flowery breast
Wholly for Him and save Himself for none,
There did I give sweet rest
To my beloved one:
The fanning of the cedars breathed thereon.
~~Saint John of the Cross
Or Fouquieria splendens is also known as coachwhip, candlewood, slimwood, desert coral, Jacob’s staff, Jacob cactus, and vine cactus although it’s not actually a true cactus. It is native to the Sonoran Desert and Chihuahuan Desert in southern California, southern Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and northern Mexico.
What’s cool about Ocotillo is its multiple uses. According to Wikipedia:
- Individual ocotillo stems are sometimes used as poles as a fencing material in their native region, and often take root to form a living fence or hedge.
- Due to their light weight and interesting pattern, ocotillo branches have been used for canes or walking sticks.
- Fresh flowers are sometimes used in salads and have a tangy flavor.
- Flowers are collected, dried, and used for herbal teas.
- According to Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West (a book published in 1989 by Museum of New Mexico Press), a fresh bark tincture can be made by chopping or snipping freshly removed bark into 1/2-inch pieces. It is said to be useful for those symptoms that arise due to fluid congestion and to be absorbed from the intestines into the mesenteric lymph system by way of the lacteals of the small intestinal lining. This is believed to stimulate better visceral lymph drainage into the thoracic duct and improve dietary fat absorption into the lymph system.
- Bathing in water that contains crushed flowers or roots has been used to relieve fatigue.
- Native Americans are known to place the flowers and roots of ocotillo over fresh wounds to slow bleeding.
- Ocotillo is also used to alleviate coughing, achy limbs, varicose veins, urinary tract infections, cervical varicosities, and benign prostate growths