March 17, 2019: Second Sunday of Lent - Pastor’s Corner
Once after celebrating a funeral Mass, I extinguished the Paschal Candle and began to carry it back to the sacristy. Perhaps my gait was a bit brisk because, as I entered the sacristy, the candle burst back into flame. Evidently, there had been a small living ember in the blackened wick and all it needed was a gentle (if accidental!) fanning to ignite. In this moment of surprise, it occurred to me that this is a beautiful image for our Lenten season. There are aspects of our life where the flame of God’s presence seems to have been quenched. The purpose of Lent is to rekindle the flame of God’s living presence in our lives.
Our Gospel this weekend relates the story of Jesus’ transfiguration. In this moment, Jesus reveals his glory to Peter, John and James. Knowing the difficult days that his disciples would soon face, Jesus gives his friends a glimpse of the divine radiance, which he offers to those who accompany him on his road to Jerusalem. We, too, are called in these Lenten days to follow Christ through the experience of his passion and death to the glory of his Resurrection. The way we rekindle the flame of Christ’s presence in our life is through the Lenten disciples of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Prayer is the oxygen of our spiritual life; the fire of God’s love does not exist without it. There is nothing magical about. Prayer is simply talking to God and then quieting ourselves to listen for His response. Though it may seem easy to do in theory, there are few things more difficult than to take time each day for quiet communion with our creator. From the time we wake up until the moment of evening retirement, our days are bursting with the noise of activity and bustle. Yet through it all, God is trying to speak to us. But, we cannot hear his voice without taking regular time each day to sit down, quiet our mind and embrace the silence. Lent calls us, in a practical way, to carve out moments for prayer, to join the community in worship and to enter into the silence where God speaks to our heart. If you were not able to obtain the Lenten books authored by Bishop Robert Barron or our Formed.org bookmarks, which offer a free subscription to all of the content, we still have some in the parish office.
Fasting is the act of giving up something in order to develop spiritual discipline. In fact, fasting is so ingrained in the Catholic psyche that Lent has almost become synonymous with it. One main meal on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Meatless Friday’s, no sweets or chocolates: such are traditional fasting practices. But fasting is not an end in itself, but a means by which to increase our desires beyond our own. The discipline of fasting stretches and expands our hearts to receive the graces, which go beyond our surface selfish desires. Fasting goes beyond just food and drink. Consider the time and energy we commit each day to TV, internet, social media. For example, instead of playing “words with friends,” we might take time to pray with “words from Scripture.”
Almsgiving is the culmination of the Lenten disciples, for through it we open ourselves up to God’s grace. Just as fasting is about “giving up self,” almsgiving is about “giving of self.” Whereas fasting is about saying no to ourselves, almsgiving is about saying yes to others. Almsgiving most directly applies to giving financial and other material support to those in need, but it can also apply to those spiritual sorts of need. For instance, when I asked some of our elementary children to give an example of almsgiving, someone offered: “I could be kind and share with someone at school who never shares with me.” What if for each of the next six weeks, you chose a family member, coworker or even stranger whom we went out of your way to show some act of kindness. It can be as simple as giving a hug, helping with chores, or being mindful to saying thank you! Through the prayer, fasting and almsgiving of Lent, we anticipate that our hearts be set aflame with presence of the Transfigured Risen Christ.