Direction: What do you want to do with your life? Homily for Ash Wednesday, March 1, 2017

To listen to the entire homily, click here.

Readings for Today

Direction.  Where are you going?  What are you doing?  What do you want to do with your life? You may not remember these lyrics from Twisted Sister’s song, “We’re not gonna take it”, but I think they provide an interesting thought at the start of Lent.  What is it that you want your life to be about?  What do you want to become?  What are you hoping for in life?

The readings today for Ash Wednesday help us to understand the path to happiness.  The path to happiness is one done first between God and oneself first.  We cannot be concerned about what others think.  Do not appear to be fasting.  Go to your room and pray in silence.  Be generous without seeking approval from others.  Why is there such emphasis in today’s gospel about silence and solitude? Because it is so easy to allow ourselves to seek happiness in a way that depends on what others think about what we do.

It is easier to ignore others if we are surrounded by people we like who do the same.  It is easier to join the “rat race” to wealth when we are in a culture that values such pursuits.  It is easier to seek illicit pleasures like pornography when we are behind the safety of a computer screen, convincing ourselves that “everyone does this” and that since I am behind a screen and not with someone else it does not harm anyone.  It is easy to cast aside other people as “other” when I do not know immigrants, or refugees, or Muslims, or Democrats or Republicans, or blacks, or whites or Hispanics.  It is easier to avoid confronting myself if I keep myself so busy I never have to embrace silence in a noisy world.

The first reading also provides us with the guidance about the purpose of Lent too.  Lent is first about an invitation.  The prophet Joel says, “return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning.”  Why should we do this? For God is “gracious and merciful . . . slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.”  Regardless of what choices we have made in life, there can be forgiveness from God for the repentant heart.  We can heal brokenness we have caused.  We can heal actions that have used others.

But do not wait.  As Saint Paul reminds us, salvation is offered today.  “Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.”

Resources for Lent – Lectio Divina for Ash Wednesday

Lectio Divina is a form of meditation rooted in liturgical celebration that dates back to early monastic communities. It involves focused reading of Scripture (lectio), meditation on the Word of God (meditatio), contemplation of the Word and its meaning in one’s life (contemplatio) and ends with prayer (oratio). For this Lent, we will have a Lectio Divina resource for the readings for Ash Wednesday and the Sundays of Lent that can be used by individuals or in group settings.

Lectio Divina for Ash Wednesday in English

Lectio Divina para el Miercoles de Ceniza

With God, Only Love and Mercy is Overwhelming

It is no secret that we can experience times and places where we are overwhelmed. We can feel there is too much to do in too little a time. There are times when we are asked to do something at work that we feel is simply too difficult. We can experience the death of someone we love dearly, and feel overwhelmed and unsure about what it is we can do to live our lives in the face of this tremendous loss.

We celebrate Lent so that we can remove from our lives the aspects of spiritual life that is overwhelming by our own making. We seek to bring our sin and mercy to God. We seek to “offer sacrifice” to make us more aware of what blessings we have in our lives, and how to remove from our lives those things we do not wish to continue. We take on extra spiritual practices so that we can come to experience God more and more in our lives.

when our sin, our faults and failings cause us to feel overwhelmed, it is seasons like Lent that remind us that we only need the overwhelming love and mercy of our God, who is always seeking a stronger relationship with us.

Thoughts for Ash Wednesday 2014

Readings for Today

I get quite a kick out of the Snickers commercials where someone is simply “not themselves” because they’re hungry, supposedly for a Snickers bar. Betty White, Roseanne Barr, Joe Pesci, and Robin Williams, among others have been featured in these ads.

Ash Wednesday is similar, insofar as it becomes a time to recognize we too are hungry, not for a Snickers bar, but for the deep and life giving relationship we treasure with Jesus.

Another story I think of for Lent is one where I was greeting a class of pre-school students on the first day of school. I met one boy, I will call him William, who got a little frustrated when later in the line of students there was another boy named William. “He is not!” said this little boy vehemently. “I am the real William.” I think of this every Ash Wednesday because it reminds me of the important questions for Christians.

Of course there is the question Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” But I also think if the question “Who am I?” What keeps me from being the real me? What do I become when I get hungry, not for a Snickers bar, but for Jesus?

What sin in my life keeps me from being real, the real person God created me to be. The gospel today reminds us that being real is not about show, pretense, or accolades. Rather, it is going to that “inner room” known only to us so that we can cut away the sin and desire that is opposed to God.

To that end, whatever we give up, or take in, should be done with the idea and purpose that I am heightening me desire for Jesus, and a more authentic relationship.

In the well known Velveteen Rabbit, the question of what is real remains constant throughout the book. What we learn is the love makes us real. Because Jesus has first loved us, we are real. God created us out if love, and in spite of our sinfulness, God continues to love us.

It may be, when we stand before God, the question of salvation may hinge on whether we are real, the persons God created us to be. So, do the three things of Lent: penance, alms giving, and fasting. In being attentive to these things during Lent, we will discover the ultimate “real” of becoming holy, and rising to a new better, and deeper relationship with Jesus.