(Because I used so many props in my homily this weekend
I wanted to share the visual as well as the usual audio.
This is our first attempt in this direction and as you'll see,
the quality of the sound isn't what it might be -
we'll work on that!
So, I've included the text of my homily, too, with the caveat
that you'll see and hear that I often went off text.)
What great scriptures for us to hear
just before Lent begins this week on Ash Wednesday!
• In the first reading, the Lord promises that he never forgets us!
Sometimes it may seem that God has forgotten us -
Jesus himself felt that way when he cried out from the Cross:
My God, my God: why have you forsaken me.
But his Father had not forgotten or abandoned him
but was leading him through his suffering
to the life that was about to be his in rising from the dead.
Lent is a time for remembering how much God loves us always:
in good times and in bad.
• And Saint Paul encourages us to bring to light
what we may have hidden in darkness
and to discern the motives of our hearts:
the good ones and - the bad ones.
Lent is a time for just this kind of introspection.
• And in the gospel Jesus counsels us not to sweat the small stuff:
what we’re to eat or drink or wear.
Instead he calls us to seek God first - above all things -
and to serve him before we serve ourselves.
Lent is a time to take a good look at our list of priorities
to see where God falls on that list.
And how will we do all this in Lent?
Well, you know the traditional ways:
prayer, fasting and caring for the poor.
Lots of people give up particular foods or beverages for Lent.
Maybe you’ll give up - ice cream?
or pizza, French fries, cookies, candy, donuts, fast food.
Or maybe you’ll give up soda, or beer, or wine -
or something harder.
Of course, if we go around for 40 days of Lent
moaning and groaning to everyone
about how hard it is to go without whatever we’re giving up,
- a good deal of the spiritual value of fasting will be lost.
We give up particular foods to learn, to know what it is
to go without, to deny ourselves the comfort we find in these foods
and to ponder what other more valuable sources of comfort
there might be in things that truly nourish us.
We might give up alcohol to gain a more sober perspective
on our lives and how we handle the things that stress us out
and to discover what we’re truly thirsty for.
And if you do give up some of these foods and beverages
you might think of taking the money you save by not buying them
and setting that aside for the poor.
In our parish your Lenten sacrificial offerings will help fund
our Helping Hands project when, on the first weekend in June,
we’ll package 10,000 meals
to send to Africa.
Another thing we might give up for Lent
is something very precious to us all: our time.
So many demands are made on our time
and most of us are much busier than we probably want to be.
Suppose I “gave up” some of my time this Lent
to pray every day,
to look around me and see who needs my help,
to look again at that handout on our parish year of service
and see how I might give some of my time to others,
or just to ponder how I might give more of my time
to those who are closest to me: my own family.
Did you know that our word LENT
comes from the old Middle English word: LENCTEN
because this season before Easter comes
as the days are getting longer, LENGHTENING.
So, Lent means spring time and spring time means SPRING CLEANING.
One thing we might all do this Lent is clean out our hearts
and throw in the trash what we don’t need in our lives:
bad habits, grudges, resentments and bitterness.
Too many of us store up these things
not deserving of taking up room in a Christian heart.
A welcome sign of springtime is the return of birds
and their song in the trees.
This Lent, might you and I consider how we cage one another,
locking up others in our bias, our prejudice, our hard feelings?
Is there someone in my life, even more than one person,
whose relationship I’ve restricted
because I’m unwilling to forgive, to let go, to forget,
to let bygones be bygone, to reconcile, to make peace?
Lent might be just the time to set free what we’ve locked up -
and sometimes, it’s our own selves we’ve caged and need to free.
Jesus counseled us in the gospel
to seek first the kingdom of God.
So Lent’s a time to ask:
who wears the CROWN in my life:
am I my own monarch?
do I lord my authority over others?
or do I bow before the Lord and ask him,
the King of Kings and the Prince of Peace,
to welcome me as his loyal subject?
But none of this,
nothing of what I’ve suggested will come to pass
unless we make time for PRAYER this Lent.
Lent is a time to renew my relationship with God
and the best way to do that is through prayer.
I’ll let this large candle be the symbol of prayer.
How in these 40 days ahead of us - or better yet -
WHEN in each of these forty days will I make time for prayer?
When will I make time each day to sit quietly,
and to remember that the Lord is with me.
Will I make time each day even to sit in the silence with Jesus,
as one sometimes sits, quietly, by a friend’s side?
If we’re going to FAST, to give things up this Lent,
we’ll need time in prayer to learn how to fill the emptiness
our fasting creates.
If we’re going to SERVE THE POOR this Lent,
we’ll need to pray to recognize who needs our help
at home, at work, at school and away.
If we’re going TO SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD,
we’ll need time in prayer to ponder, to study, to discern
where we’re at with God
and what changes in our relationship with the Lord
might be in order.
If we live Lent in these ways, we’ll let go of many things
but we won’t arrive at Easter empty handed.
Our Lenten practices aren’t meant just to take things away
but also to help us find new gifts to carry us to Easter,
new treasures to store in our hearts,
treasures like peace of mind and heart,
a new prayer life, a greater love for serving those in need
and a closer relationship with Jesus.
My treasure chest here is empty
because I don’t yet know how the Lenten season ahead might fill it.
Lent begins this week.
So listen carefully to this last piece of advice:
GET YOUR ASH IN CHURCH THIS WEDNESDAY!
It’s the best way to start this holy season.
And after that, to return here every Sunday in Lent
to hear the Lord’s Word,
to pray for a Lenten season filled with grace and peace
and be nourished with the Bread and Cup of Communion,
the fruit of his love,
Jesus’ love laid down for us on the Cross
that we might have life and have it to the full.
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