LENT: Standing honestly before God

Homily for the Third Sunday of Lent
(Scriptures for today's liturgy)  

Audio for Homily 

There are at least as many ways to speak about Lent
as there are days in the Lenten season.

Lent is a time for the whole Church to prepare to celebrate Easter,
a season of prayer and sacrifice,
a season for works of mercy and outreach to the poor.

Lent is a kind of “spring training” for Christians:
a time for us to get back in shape spiritually;
a time to work out and live for 40 days
the life of faith we’re called to live all year ‘round.

Lent is a time to stand as honestly as we can before God:
thanking the Lord for all we have
and asking forgiveness for all our sins.

Lent comes around every year to remind us of something
we might not easily or readily acknowledge
and that’s the simple fact that every single one of us is a sinner.

Every single one of us falls short of God’s law
that we love the Lord above all things
and love our neighbor as ourselves.

Every one of us falls short of forgiving our neighbor
as freely and as fully as God forgives each of us.

Every one of us falls short of being the person
God made and calls us to be.

Every one of us is a sinner standing in need of God’s mercy.

Maybe that’s why this passage with the 10 Commandments
shows up here in Lent.

Those first three commandments concern our relationship with God.
“I am the Lord your God: you shall not have other gods besides me.”

But many of us do worship a god besides the Lord,
and that god appears in the shape, in the form of a screen:
might be a TV screen, or a computer screen, or a Kindle screen,
or an iPad or a smart-phone screen.

Whatever the screen might be, many of us worship for hours every day
before the images and voices and words (good or bad)
that appear on those screens.

And most of us are accustomed to having conversations,
meetings, meals -- and Mass -- interrupted
by a ringing cell phone, by someone taking a call
or reading a text message.

Suppose, this Lent, we all programmed our cell phones
to ring at a particular time during the day to interrupt
and remind us to:
stop what we’re doing and to step aside from it;
to find a quiet place, alone, and for 3 minutes (180 seconds)
speak to God in prayer from our hearts…

Might those 3 minutes remind us
that there’s only one God who is Lord of all our days and nights?
That his name deserves our reverence?
That on one day a week, the Lord’s Day,
we’re called to spend not three minutes but an hour in prayer,
in the company of God’s people gathered to worship?

The other seven commandments govern our relationships with others.

“Honor your father and mother.”
Whether I’m 7 or 17 or 27, 37, 47…
Whether my parents are awesome parents, or not so great…
Whether I like them or not…
God calls on me to honor the two people
through whom I received the gift of life
and who raised me;
God calls me to thank them and tell them I love them;
to work to heal and reconcile where there are problems;
and to pray for them when such efforts seem to fail.

“You shall not kill.”
How do I live and participate in a world
where entertainment, politics and warfare
support a culture of death?
And more personally, whether I’m a student in school
or an adult on the sidelines of a playing field,
or a colleague at the coffee machine at work:
whose name, whose reputation, whose individuality, whose hopes
have I killed --
with my words, my silence, my insinuation, my gossip, my lies?

“You shall not commit adultery.”
In thought, word and deed; in what I’ve done and what I’ve failed to do:
how have I been unfaithful,
how have I been less-than-faithful to my spouse?
to my commitment? to my promise? to my state in life?

The seventh and ninth commandments:
“You shall not steal.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods and good fortune.”
Welcome to the suburbs where envy and jealousy drive our desires,
where we often want what we don't have and isn't ours,
but hunger for;
where we steal our loving presence from those who most deserve it
and give away our time and energy to our work,
mistakenly thinking that what I earn, what I do,
might be more valuable than who I am.

And the tenth commandment:
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
How easily each of us stretches, distorts, misrepresents
or denies the truth.
How easily and quickly we lie to one another, and to ourselves
and to God who is never taken in
by the foolishness of our hiding from the truth.

And the truth is this: every single one of us is a sinner.

Every single one of us is a sinner standing in need of God’s mercy.

Image source
Lent is so much more than a time for giving up beer or chocolate.
Lent is a time to come clean and be honest about our lives
as we stand before God:
to stand at the foot of the Cross and take comfort
that even in our sins, Jesus loves us this much
and wants nothing more than to forgive us,
and to share with us the joy of Easter,
the mercy of his love.

It’s not easy to name our faults and failings
and ourselves as sinners.

So to help us on this Lenten journey,
to strengthen us in this spring training for our souls,
the Lord invites us to his altar to nourish us with his Word
and with the gift of what he sacrificed on the Cross:
his Body and Blood in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Every single one of us is a sinner standing in need of God’s pardon.

May the love of God help us stand honestly in his presence
and come to the joy that waits for us in his mercy.


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