Sunday, February 22, 2015

First Sunday of Lent: Contrition

This weekend, as we do every first Sunday of Lent, we hear of Jesus’s temptation in the desert and Jesus’s beginning ministry and proclamation. This year, we hear Mark's account, and it is noticeable brief. In his account, we do not hear of the nature of the temptations, but rather that he was ministered to by angels and was accompanied by wild animals. This may be a small and odd description, but it is a motif of tranquility - that Jesus is among wild animals, but there is peace and harmony - it is a return to the Garden of Eden. He is ministered to by angels, demonstrating that just as Elijah was feed by the ravens, Jesus is supported by spiritual entities. Jesus enters the desert after His baptism, but there is strengthened for His beginning ministry.
He begins with a bold proclamation - the time has come - repent and believe in the Gospel. It is the message that marks His whole ministry - the time is now, and it is an invitation to return to the Lord, much as the prophet Joel proclaimed. Jesus' invitation to us remains - we are to repent and believe in the Gospel. Repent… The word is a command, not an option. In Greek, it literally means “Change your mind!” It is the task to take on the mind of Christ, to change our hearts and minds so in conformity with God’s that we live differently. It is a call to conversion, to recognizing that we are weak and fallen human beings in need of a savior. We are sinners, and too often are ‘small-minded’ in that we chose sin over the life of grace. When we turn to the Gospel, that God loves us and desires us, we open ourselves to His will. This means that we are constant need of conversion, and when we are aware of sin, we need contrition. This is the aspect of prayer we ought to start. Contrition is to admit we are sinners, but that we are asking for the mercy and forgiveness of God.
Even as we begin this Lent with Contrition, we might be aware of the need of the Sacrament of Confession. I encourage this great sacrament! When we focus on our sins, we might lose sight of the mercy of God, or we might rationalize our sins away. In the Sacrament, however, we are showered with mercy as we come before the Lord, and and we admit that we have sinned. Let mercy lead us to true contrition!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Catas - An invitation to prayer

In the weeks of Lent, I will be writing a paragraph or two of the core of my Sunday homily. I plan on giving a series on types of prayer that will take me through to Easter.
The sundays of lent will focus on 5 types, and I have arranged them as an anagram to spell out Catas - which is Spanish for "you taste" or "you experience", when we use all five types of prayer, we will experience a great intimacy with the Lord and taste and see that He is good.

Ash Wednesday

Lent is a blessed time in the Church year. The season was first experienced by the Catechumens (those who were to be baptized at the Easter Vigil) as that they entered 40 days of intense spiritual preparation before their sacramental entrance into the Church. The time-frame of forty days was not haphazardly chosen, but because of Jesus’ own 40 days in the desert, the 40 years of the Hebrews being purified in the desert through their wandering, and Elijah’s fast of 40 days on Mount Horeb. It was a means of remembering that they were uniting with the Lord and of being purified for their encounter with Him in the sacraments. Eventually, the preparation of 40 days in the season of Lent was offered to the Church in general as a means of recommitment, association with the catechumens and a preparation of their own hearts to celebrate the joy of the resurrection.

When we truly enter the spirit of the season, we follow the Lord’s command to pray, fast, and give alms and three practical means of Lenten preparation. These are things that go against our fallen nature. We too often remain in broken relationship with our loving Father, and like Adam hid from Him in our shame. Prayer seeks to stand before Him, as venerable and spiritual naked and impoverished as we are. When we fast, we avoid the comforts that the world offers and reminds us of our reliance on the Lord. Our almsgiving is a means of seeking to become generous and to connect with those who have so little, that we can share in their poverty.

This season of Lent is for us who follow Christ to grow in faith, to empty ourselves of all that is not Christ so that we can be ready to receive Him who died and rose again for us, to give us eternal life. This season is not one of self-directed improvement, but of allowing the Lord to grasp us, grace us, and guide us to Himself. May these days of Lent be days of intense preparation for us!

All are called by God to love Him.

All are called to serve Him.

Some are called to special lives of service,

to give witness to God's love through being a priest, religious brother, or sister.

Is He calling you?