+ Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation! The days of Lent are here! Once again, we begin a 40 day period of resting/relaxing, reflecting and renewing which is meant to correspond to the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting and praying in the desert, and being tempted by the Devil, preparing for his public ministry. We would be foolish to think that the Devil is not still around in our day. It is obvious in the ungodly acts of lying, deception, deceit and chaos that are that threaten to disturb the peace of our country and the world at this time.
He is also potentially present in our own lives: St. Peter tells us straightaway: “The devil is prowling about the earth like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour, resist him solid in your faith.”
Lent is a time to solidify our faith more strongly than ever before. And to choose which lion we will follow: the roaring devouring beast, or the other Lion: the more powerful majestic Lion of Judah: Jesus the Messiah, who came to do battle with that Prince of Darkness. One day, when the final battle between these two symbolic figures takes place: we need to ask ourselves: which side will you be on, which side will I be one? The time to choose sides is now, because perhaps the final battle is at hand now!
And so, in order to get the most out of our “side-choosing Lenten experience,” the Church recommends three concurrent activities (related in the gospel passage today): to be done according to our health, our abilities and our generosity:
Prayer, fasting, and alms giving – daily if possible.
Prayer: can be summed up in the activity of pausing, resting, relaxing quietly within ourselves – being with our God – our Teacher – our Redeemer – our Friend – to see what we can see, to hear what we can hear – about how much God loves us, how much God wants to meet our every need, how much God wants to heal us, soothe us, and calm our every fear, how our sins can be forgiven, and how heaven can be our goal.
Fasting: can be summed up as the activity of reflective giving space to God in our hearts – by removing what may be an obstacle to full and more complete possession by him of us, our lives, our cares, our worries, our heart’s desire! We give up, only to get what God wants to give us, not what we think we need.
Alms giving – is a kind of concrete expression of our faith, and living communication with our God through prayer, praise and reflection. It is a tangible sign of our current state of renewal: if God means to much to us, as we have experienced through prayer and reflection, then we need to prove it by our outward acts of kindness, compassion and human helpfulness. We are our brother’s and sister’s keepers. We are here, now, precisely to help the ones God puts in our path each day. Let our alms giving be a true demonstration of our inward conversion and willingness to ever change and become more and more Christ like!
The ashes we receive today are a sign of our utter and complete dependence upon God, who loves us and empowers us to live not only in his image and likeness but also the image, likeness and self-sacrificial intention and attitude of his Son, Jesus, who suffered, died and rose again from the dead to give absolute and complete value and meaning to our lives, our sufferings and our victories.
Let us make this Lent be like no other, let us live this Lent resting/relaxing, reflecting and becoming renewed – so that we can help, with the inpouring of the Holy Spirit, renew the spirit of our country, and the face of the earth!