Listen here to my homily for the First Sunday of Lent. It was given to Ss. Cosmas & Damian Parish in Punxsutawney, PA on Sunday, February 18, 2018, at the 11:00 AM parish mass.
A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.
After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
The Gospel of the Lord
What is the purpose of lent?
Lent is a time of preparation for the Passion of Jesus Christ. It is a time of preparation of our hearts, our minds, our souls for the ultimate experience in faith: when God DIED for our sins on the cross. When God entered HELL, and on the Third Day, as He promised, HE RETURNED.
So, then what is lent? If it is a time of preparation, how are we to prepare? The church gives us three tasks: prayer, fasting, almsgiving
- Prayer is of course something that we should be doing daily. In lent, we are encouraged to delve deeper into our prayer life by either adding on some sort of penance or by giving ourselves a task in prayer to encounter Christ more deeply. We should enter into prayer through the reading of scriptures, the contemplation on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, enter more deeply into the sacraments, receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation to right ourselves with God, to receive our Lord in the Sacrament of the Eucharist where we receive many Graces and Blessings from God. Prayer is always listed first because it is the most important of the three.
- When we pray, we enter more fully into the love of God. This love is the most important aspect of our relationship with God. If we are not connected with God, our good works are pointless, they exist only to blow our own horn and give us the glory.
- “If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.” 1 Cor 13:1
- If we focus on prayer as the most important task of lent, we have an opportunity to serve more than we ever thought possible.
- When we deny ourselves of something that we like (the most common thing we always hear that someone is fasting from is chocolate) we remind ourselves of those who go without and join them in solidarity as well as remind ourselves that we offer a sacrifice to God knowing that we are giving up a good to make His presence and glory known to our own person
- Yet fasting and abstinence is more than just not eating chocolate or sweets during Lent. Fasting is an opportunity to encounter Jesus Christ by abstaining from gossip, fasting from unnecessary entertainment, abstaining from unnecessary conversation that does not lead to prayer and almsgiving.
- We should use our time well this lent, abstaining and fasting from things that lead us away from Christ.
- In the historical sense, this is where we give money and food to the poor. Notice that this is not the first, and, once again, there is a purpose to this. We cannot give what we ourselves do not already possess. When we give alms, we are not just giving money and food to someone; rather, we are presented an opportunity to give Jesus Christ to the other. If we were to just donate food, or money, or our time without allowing Jesus Christ to be our goal, to follow His command to “go out and proclaim the Good News (Mark 16:15),” then we are doing nothing more than most secular companies do so as to get a tax credit. If we first root ourselves in Jesus Christ, we then have the ability to give freely of ourselves
Now, doing good deeds for God is important! I am not denying the necessity and the importance of serving our brothers and sisters. We must continue to reach out to all of those around us and lend some sort of helping hand. But Lent is more than just doing good works. When we focus only on doing good works, we lose the whole point. When we solely focus on how we can better the world, we forget Jesus Christ. When we try to be the Saviour of the World, we push out Jesus Christ, who already saved the world. Lent is not a time to parade ideologies; it is not appropriate to make lent out to be a time where we do all these great things for self-gratification. LENT IS A TIME FOR TRUE CONVERSION OF THE HEART!!!!! Lent is a time to enter more deeply into the mystery of the Trinity, into the great dance, the great exchange of love of the Trinity!
Let us take this journey of Lent to fall deeper in love with God. Let us utilize this time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to make Jesus Christ present to ourselves, as well as our Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ.