Have you ever said to a child, “Don’t worry about other people think, just do what is right and everything will take care of itself!” or has anyone ever said to you, “Follow your heart and don’t worry about what other folks say!”
Today, we begin the great season of Lent. Often times we engage in actions that are suggested by the Church. We skip a meal here or there – give up chocolate or TV, we throw a few extra dollars in the collection basket, we say a few extra Hail Marys and Our Fathers, but then we we carry on as usual.
Lent is about preparing for the death and resurrection of Jesus. Lent is about deepening and strengthening our relationships. Traditionally, the Church invites us to engage in fasting, prayer and almsgiving. It is not about going hungry, saying more prayers or giving a little extra money to charity. These three practices are intended to help us deepen our relationship with ourselves, with others, with creation and with our God. When we engage in these practices it is about changing our hearts. If our Lenten practices are not changing our hearts then we need to adjust what we are doing.
Lent is a season that prepares us for the death and resurrection of Jesus, for the celebration of the paschal mystery which gives us direction, which sustains us and gives meaning to our lives. The death and resurrection remind us that our journey is towards life, life for us and for the world.
With the pandemic there is much suffering in our lives – loss of jobs and income, loss of family moments – spending time with each other, loss of opportunities to travel and to enjoy holidays, an inability to gather and celebrate our faith as we normally do.
The prophet Joel tells the People of Israel, now is the time to make an adjustment, to return to the Lord, to focus on God and on what God wants from them. Joel invites them to gather and listen to God together. He reminds them that the pathway to God is not simply about me – it is about us.
In the Gospel, Jesus is speaking to his disciples, helping them to deepen their relationships – it is not about the external things – it is about internal things. Their prayer, their fasting and their almsgiving is not about impressing others – it is about causing a change within themselves.
Paul reminds the Corinthians of who they are – the work that is their work – the work of reconciliation, of working together with Christ to bring life and healing to our world.
Given the suffering that so many are experiencing at this time, let our fasting make room in our hearts and minds for others.
Given the suffering that so many are experiencing at this time, let our prayer be a conversation with God; a conversation where we use our voice to speak and we use our body to listen carefully for the voice of God.
Given the suffering that so many are experiencing at this time, let our almsgiving have an impact on us and on those who are most in need.
Lent is about relationships; our relationship with ourselves, with others, with creation, with God. Let us stop and take a long loving look at all our relationships. Let us take care of these relationships in ways that bring life to us and to the world in which we live. As Lent unfolds I encourage us to stop every now and then and ask:
Is what I am doing helping me to move in the right direction – am I moving towards God?
Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI