Well Lent is with us once again…….it comes around quickly, doesn’t it? And once again we often say to ourselves and to others…time flies! I’ve noticed like you that Coles and Woolies (Woolworths for our overseas friends) have had Easter Eggs and Easter Bunnies for Sale for the last few weeks. Baker’s Delight here in Australia have beautiful Hot Cross Buns for Sale already, and we are not even near Good Friday. Once again, we see that the commercial world is more interested in making money, as it uses the Religious significance for its own ends.
In the Southern Hemisphere, we are getting close to autumn, even though many of us say in Australia, when will this hot summer end? However, for our sisters and brother in the Northern Hemisphere, they may be thinking ‘When will Winter end?’ However, Lent is that time of the year in the North when the sunlight during the day is getting longer, and there is movement in the ground, because the plants are starting to wake up and begin to shoot! However taking into account the variance of Global Climate at this time of the year, let’s just get down to the meaning of Lent!
In short Lent can be looked upon as a ‘Training time’…a toning up time for our spiritual life. We see enough Sport on Television, Sky Channel, and Foxtel all year round, but behind all of that, there is solid training by the athletes. The Winter Olympics are on at the moment and we all marvel at the ability of the athletes and their absolute and full hearted desire to go for gold for their country. As the old saying goes, “the prize cannot be won without effort!” Actually, I don’t know who made up that phrase, but all I know is that the Marist Brothers who taught me at school used to often say that to us.
So, looking at the Readings for this weekend, we see the first Reading from the Book of Genesis, that our God’s strength and protection is symbolised in the giant bow within the rainbow. However, there is a response that is required from God’s people as a result of the Covenant with Noah……and this is summed up in the Antiphon if the responsorial psalm….’Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.’
So Lent can be seen as a time of renewal…both personal and communitarian. Let’s look at the Lenten Invitation in Mark’s Gospel for this weekend…..’The time has come’, he said,’ and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe the Good news.’ Here we have a mega clue as to what to do, and what to become, during Lent. Repent comes from a Greek word, metanoia which means change…not just on the outside but to change all the way through. One way of visualising this is to ask you to stand on your hands, right now! In doing that, we would see the world differently. I think that if I were to stand on my hands right now, I’d be rushed off to Hospital! But, I’m sure that you get my drift. So, let’s go back to the scripture quote….Repent and what? Believe the Good News. Believe in this case is not just some academic approach, but to BE ‘Good News’. I’ll come back to this before I sign off…..
Many years ago when I was stationed at St. Brigid’s Passionist Parish in Sydney, I drove the car to the local shopping centre, and as I look back, I know that I should have walked….but I was in a hurry. I committed a terrible sin…..I parked the car in a loading zone! I justified that by saying to myself, ‘well it is Saturday, who would be LOADING OR UNLOADING TODAY? I went off to the Newsagent, got what I wanted, and made for the car. Now there was an intersection with traffic lights and I had to get to the other side; of course it was showing RED….No walking! Just then a couple of well-meaning Preaching Christians, must have caught sight of the Gold Cross on my shirt, and said in a loud voice so that all of Sydney could hear, ‘ Brother, have you been saved by Jesus?’ At that very moment I spotted a Parking Policeman making his way to my car to obviously write a ticket…with that I replied to these two guys, ‘The short answer is YES! But at the moment I need to be saved from that parking Policeman over there….’ They smiled and understood. So here we have another clue as to what we should be working on in Lent; namely freeing up time in ourselves to trawl through our personal story and to spot those moments when we have experienced being SAVED! Or more simply, and to the point, experiencing the saving hand of God in our daily life. Question: When have I seen the saving hand of God in my life and in the lives of others? That’s the key question…….if we can sit with that question and discover some answers, we are well on the way for ‘spiritual training time’.
Now let’s get down to tin tacks, as we often say in Australia; how and what to do during Lent? I stated above that Lent can be looked upon as a ‘Spiritual training time’….toning up our spiritual life. We are only going to do that if we really want to. It’s very much like wanting to diet: We can read all the books and Google all the information that we like, but if we don’t want to do it……we don’t get thin! Honest training is often hard, demanding and sometimes boring, but the end result can only happen with concerted effort and discipline. It can be helpful to be involved in your Parish Lenten Programme because you are doing it in a group, and one of the spin offs is the deepening and building of community. Also, in going it alone, there is more chance of giving up or giving in. Why not do it as a family? Perhaps the quotes from Scripture and reflective questions might be a start. Please remember that Jesus is our Trainer! He is our Fitness First Consultant!
Jesus quietly leaves Capernaum and travels through Galilee.
In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. Simon and his companions set out in search of him, and when they found him they said, ‘Every¬body is looking for you’. He answered, ‘Let us go elsewhere, to the neighbouring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came.’
1) Quiet moments of prayer were important to Jesus. When do I feel the need to pray?
MATT: 7: 1 – 5
‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; because the judgements you give are the judgements you will get, and the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given. Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own? How dare you say to your brother, “Let me take the splinter out of your eye”, when all the time there is a plank in your own? Hypocrite.’ Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.’
2) Jesus didn’t judge others, he accepted people as they were. To copy his example, what attitudes towards my family and friends do I need to change?
While he was at dinner in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’
3) Jesus mixed with socially unacceptable people – the poor, the dull, and the sinners. What type of people do I make friends and associate with?
MATT: 19: 16-22
And there was a man who came to him and asked, ‘Master, what good deed must I do to possess eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is one alone who is good. But if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He said, ‘Which?’ ‘These: ‘Jesus replied ‘you must not kill. You must not commit adultery. You must not bring false witness. Honour your father and mother, and: you must love your neighbour as yourself.’ The young man said to him, ‘I have kept all these. What more do I need to do?’ Jesus said, ‘if you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor), and you will have treasure in heaven: then come, follow me’. But when the young man heard these words he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.
4) The young man’s self-interest became a barrier to his complete following of Jesus. If I were that young man, what barriers would Jesus find in me?
The Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me’.
5) What crosses are most difficult for me to carry?
‘If your brother or sister does something wrong, reprove them and, if they are sorry, forgive them. And if they wrong you seven times a day and seven times comes back to you and says, “I am sorry”, you must forgive them.’
6) Jesus taught that we must always forgive. Are some things more important to me than this constant forgiveness of others, such as pride, impatience, pettiness? If so, what are they?
MATT: 18: 12-14
‘Tell me. Suppose a man has a hundred sheep and one of them strays: will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go in search of the stray? I tell you solemnly, if he finds it, it gives him more joy than do the ninety-nine that did not stray at all. Similarly, it is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost’.
7) Jesus tell us that no matter how far we move away from him, he always wants us back. In saying this to me, what does he want me to learn?
Mahatma Gandhi once said: “There would be more Christians in the world if you Christians were a bit more like your Christ.”
8) What things within me need changing for me to be more like Jesus?
I contribute to the web of sin in our community by………..and I ask God and this group to forgive me…LORD HAVE MERCY.
The Prophet Micah says in Chapter 6, verse 8:
‘What is good has been explained to you man; this is what Yahweh asks of you:
Only this, to act justly, to love tenderly,
And to walk humbly with your God.’
9) Taking this Word from our God, speaking through His spokesperson, Micah; what resolutions are you going to make for future living out of this word in your own life?
Fr Kevin Walsh
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web:https://realhomilies.wordpress.