Once again we begin our journey from Ash Wednesday, through Lent, through Holy Week, to Easter. Our journey reminds us of our need to be mindful – mindful of the Jesus Christ was born human; who came and lived and walked among us; who suffered and died so that you and I might be saved; and who rose from the dead on Easter. It is that Jesus, the risen Jesus Christ who invites you and invites me each into a personal relationship.
But there are so many things in this world that distract us from having a relationship with Jesus. Maybe, we glance at our phone just for a minute and get so caught up in social media that a whole hour has disappeared. Maybe we sit down in front of the television to catch up on that show everyone is talking about, and suddenly you realize you just binged watched the whole season – the whole season! Maybe you sit down and open that special box of chocolates on the St. Valentine’s day and think, “I’ll have one piece – just one piece,” or crack open that case of beer that’s sitting in the fridge calling your name, or perhaps that bottle of scotch that your friend gave you for Christmas only to look back and see an empty container! “Whoa! Where did that go?”
All of these things are examples of things that distract our relationship with Jesus. And if we have not relationship with Jesus, then it’s easy to take everything and everyone around us for granted. Now is a perfect time to reconcile ourselves against those sins – those excesses in our life. Now is the time to go to the sacrament of reconciliation and lay our sins at the foot of the cross.
Holy Mother Church reminds us that we have access to three ancient, powerful, spiritual exercises to help purify our bodies, our hearts and our minds from all of the things that distract us, and that might contaminate our thinking and our bodies. Any combination is a wonderful sacrifice for our Lenten journeys. They are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. But Scripture reminds us today that whatever you do, don’t call attention to it. You’re not trying to win the praise or admiration of those around you. We sacrifice to deepen our relationship with Jesus of Easter morning.
Setting time aside for mindful prayer is important. It’s about being deliberate in the way we pray. Whether you pray a pre-written prayer or you pray spontaneously, if you sacrifice time to pray more during Lent, be mindful about your prayer. Slowly pray those words so that they impact you. It’s not about checking a box. It’s about deepening our relationship with Jesus.
Fasting gives us an opportunity to purify our thinking and our bodies. We can fast from electronics. We can fast from social media. We can fast from television. And we can fast from food. It seems that the medical world is catching up to this ancient biblical secret. Doctors and nutritionists more and more are recommending some form of fasting be incorporated into our diets. Even intermittent fasting has a powerful, healing effect. This is a wonderful opportunity we have here in Lent to try fasting. If for some medical reason you are not sure whether or not you should fast, then talk to you doctor. Tell your doctor you are a Christian and you would like to incorporate fasting in your treatment program. Let them help you design something that works for you. Perhaps by giving up food it might clarify our thought to deepen our relationship with Christ.
Almsgiving is not just about giving money away. It’s really about changing the way we look at our money, our wealth and our possessions. It’s about recognizing that everything I have belongs to God. I am just the steward. That’s why Holy Mother Church calls giving “stewardship” to remind us that what we collect in this world is not only meant for our benefit, but meant to be shared with others for the building up of God’s kingdom. When we give, it’s not about saying I have an extra two bucks so let me put it in the basket, but how will this sacrifice bring into a deeper relationship with Jesus.
This Lenten season is a wonderful opportunity to invite family and friends back to the Church. If they don’t understand what all of this is about, then try to share with them. Help them understand what we are doing and why. They don’t need to turn to some fancy New Age hocus pocus. We have access to three, ancient and powerful spiritual exercises in our own faith tradition.
Holy Mother Church tells us that if we do these spiritual exercises, then we might have an encounter with the risen Jesus Christ, the Jesus of Easter morning, who wants to help us change our lives so that you and I might experience the salvation promised by God.
Homework! As you go through Lent this year, there is one thing I suggest we do:
- Every time you do whatever it is you are sacrificing this Lent, ask yourself, “how is this sacrifice drawing me into a stronger relationship with the Jesus.
If we do our exercises, then hopefully we will recognize that we’re not giving up chocolate for the sake of giving up chocolate. No! But that are trying to draw closer to Jesus Christ.
Do you got it? Do you get it? Are you going to do it? Good! Through the intercession of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, may we all come to know and to love Jesus. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!