Today my father turns 91 years old. He turns another year. God has given him some more time to serve him. For ourselves we have come to another Lent. We have received another season of Lent of striving in the battle against evil, knowing that we always will fall short of our goal of perfection. But this is not a day to throw up our hands in despair. If we truly believe in the Incarnation – that the Word took on our human flesh so completely that he is one of us – then we are filled with hope this day. For our Gospel tells us that Jesus – the human Christ – battled temptation and overcame the tricks of Satan. And with the support of one another and with faith in God, we can do the same. Just as my father celebrates the anniversary of his birth, he has been given an extension in his life to do more for God. So as we journey through this season of Lent let us know also that God will help us become closer to him.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
On Ash Wednesday, we begin the season of Lent by receiving ashes on our forehead. Receiving ashes in the shape of a cross identifies us as a disciple of Jesus Christ. The ashes also serve as reminders of human mortality and the need for repentance and change in our lives. This day is a time for fasting and abstaining from meat. We begin the forty-day season of Lent by keeping our sights on Jesus’ victory over death on Easter. Lent is a time for change - changing our lives to be more Christ-like. Lent is a time when we make space in our lives to think about our relationship with our heavenly Father and the ways in which we are responding or failing to respond to his love and care for us. This desire to change our lives toward God and away from sin finds outward expression in various ways: prayer, fasting, almsgiving, reading the Bible, praying the Rosary, following the Stations of the Cross, going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
This Lent when we receive ashes, keep in mind that it is an invitation to repent, a challenge to grow closer to the Lord and a gentle reminder that our time on earth is limited.
Saturday, February 11, 2012
Leprosy, in the ancient world, meant being cut off from contact with the human community. The leper who approached Jesus in today’s Gospel would have borne the shame and isolation of this disease beyond what most of us might imagine. The leper’s faith in Jesus was grounded in his desire to be in a right relationship with God. “Moved with pity,” Jesus made the leper clean.
How do we imitate Jesus in our lives? Who are the despised among us? Who are the overlooked among us today? Whom do we fear because of who they are?
Some possible ways we can overcome the lepers of today are to pray for those who mistreat us, forgive someone, especially someone who is a “leper” in our life, or resolve that we will say something complimentary to someone every day. By being Christ-like, we can bring healing to those around us that may feel they are lepers.
Saturday, February 4, 2012
In my nearly 25 years of ministry, I have been called many times to visit and pray for the sick. We all seek healing. I know how my arthritis is slowing me down, and how good it is to turn to Jesus in prayer for healing. When illness strikes us or a close relative or friend, we may want Jesus to come with immediate healing. Often, in illness, people deepen their own prayer-life and their relationship with God.
But our Gospel story this weekend suggest that Jesus takes a different approach to sickness. When everyone is looking for him, Jesus simply tells his disciples, “Let us go to the nearby villages that I may preach there also.” Jesus’ activity is less about healing, than it is about announcing the good news. In our quest for healing we discover what “good news” is for us as we draw closer to God. We are invited to consider our own response to difficulties of life and to examine how we can help others cope with their struggles. This is truly following Jesus.