Monday, February 23, 2015

The Things That Matter

Three Pillars of Lent
The word “Lent” comes from an Anglo-Saxon word which means spring.   And spring means life.   The snow will melt and the landscape will turn green again.  

Lent is a time to renew ourselves.  It’s a time for a change of heart.

There’s a true story about a young man who attained career success.  And then after his father’s death, the son – who thought his father died a failure -- found a box of memorabilia.    And he discovered a letter written by his father, years before, when the son was born.  

The letter read, “Hi, Johnny.  I’m your daddy.  I’ve waited so long to say that.  The doctors told your mom and me we could never have a child of our own.  But every day we prayed for a miracle. And much to everyone’s surprise, you were born: our miracle child. Johnny, to be your daddy means picking you up when you fall and holding you when you are afraid.  There’s so much in my heart, so many dreams for you.  You have brought joy into our lives, a joy your mom and I thought we’d never know.

“Son, I’ll never be rich.  But I believe that when God helped us find our way to you, God also would be ‘beside us’ the rest of our lives.  We would always have each other and that’s more than I ever hoped for. Just keep in mind who you are, where you’ve come from, and how much we love you, our miracle child.”

Then the son had a change of heart; he realized the things that mattered most: his family and people around him. 

The point of this true story and the point of Lent is this: so often people search for meaning and purpose in such things as wealth and power and celebrity.  Lent challenges us to refocus ourselves; to become more aware of God’s presence; and to pay more attention to the needs of one another. 

In the Gospel, Jesus begins his public ministry of preaching that the kingdom of God is at hand.

This Lenten season let us examine the course or direction of our own lives, and treat ourselves to three age-old disciplines: 

Yes, re-treat ourselves to prayer.   Prayer is an awareness of our absolute dependency upon God, a grateful response to God.  Prayer brings to consciousness the presence of God that is already around us and within us.  

Second, re-treat ourselves to fasting.   For the early Christians, going without food “enabled the hungry to eat.”   Our Lenten fast can mean doing without other things: without anger, impatience, selfishness, negative judgments about others or whatever prevents us from living a life of discipleship.

And finally re-treat ourselves to almsgiving.   In early Christianity there were no government agencies to provide assistance.  Almsgiving was seen as an essential addition to prayer and fasting.   Share our time.   Share our talent.  Share our money with needy people, if we can.  Share ourselves.

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