LET IT aLL sTART hERE
For Catholics who care...
Our pastor's sermon this morning was so inspirational and instructional I felt compelled to postpone my own Ash Wednesday reflection in order to share it with all who are trying to turn toward God. Have a blessed Lenten Season!
Homily Ash Wednesday 2015
Joel 2:12-18; Mt 6:1-6, 16-18
Prayer, fasting and alms giving ... important disciplines in the Christian life carried over from our Jewish heritage. I encourage you to do something from each category this Lenten season, with the idea that you’ll carry it over into your everyday lives, as seasons come and seasons go.
If you weren’t able to make it to Mass last weekend, check out my homily on the website. I talk about barriers that get in the way of our cleanness of life in body or mind, heart or soul, and that Lent is a great time to begin fasting from those barriers.
I also talk about how prayer is essential in first identifying the barriers between us and God, and also in ensuring success through the process of tearing them down, and keeping them out of the way. We also have these little black books at the doors to help you recreate, renew, or strengthen your daily life of prayer.
Giving alms is most often thought of as making donations to help those in need, and we have the rice bowls at the doors as a way of doing that. But you can also give other things besides money. In the spirit of the New Evangelization, I suggest that once a week, you give your faith away to someone in need.
A less intimidating way to do that might be to visit the blog I’ve mentioned a few times before: www.letitallstarthere.com. There've been some wonderful things written there lately that have inspired some wonderful faith sharing among strangers and friends. Commit to contributing part of your own faith story once a week for Lent.
Whatever you do for these 40 days, do it in the spirit desired by the Lord, described by the Prophet Joel. Make sure your heart is really in it! If these practices are nothing more than added burdens in your life, that you complain about until Easter Sunday, they are meaningless, if not outright offensive to God.
“Rend your hearts, not your garments.” Back in the day, the practice of rending garments meant to tear your clothing as a sign of intense emotion – anger, grief or despair. God wants the sign to be genuinely meaningful ... he wants our hearts to be torn open, with contrition for sins, and with burning desire for reconciliation.
You probably know your heart is a muscle. When you exert other muscles in your body with high resistance training like lifting weights, you get sore the next day or two, because the exercise actually causes micro-tears in your muscle tissue ... your muscles bleed, and that hurts.
But with rest and nutrition, the healing of that tissue makes the muscles grow and get stronger. Hence, the phrase: no pain, no gain. Now, think about Lent and the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and alms giving, as spiritual exercise for your heart.
Embrace the challenge, the difficulty, the sacrifice of these penitential practices, and allow them to rend your heart ... feel the pain of tearing your heart away from your own wants, needs, and desires, so that it might focus on something other than itself.
Make the struggle a deliberate offering of self-gift, and do so joyfully, that your heart might grow ... both in capacity and strength ... to love God fully, as he first loved you, and to love your neighbors as yourself.