Sunday, February 18, 2018

Lent invites us to ‘let go’ of whatever it is that keeps us from building the Kingdom of God. What ‘facts’ does Jesus want to show you this Lent?

Prayer, mercy and fasting: These three are one, and they give life to each other. Fasting is the soul of prayer; mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. Let no one try to separate them; they cannot be separated. If you have only one of them or not all together, you have nothing.

So if you pray, fast; if fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. When you fast, see the fasting of others. If you hope for mercy, show mercy. If you look for kindness, show kindness. If you want to receive, give.  - Saint Peter Chrysologus (380 – 450: was Bishop of Ravenna from about 433 until his death. He is known as the “Doctor of Homilies” for the concise but theologically rich reflections he delivered during his time as the Bishop of Ravenna. 

Gospel Text: (MK 1:12-15)
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."

Lent is a journey in the desert for each of us. It's quieter and clearer in the desert. There are fewer distractions, fewer toys, fewer addictive behaviors, fewer arguments. There's no one to yell at in the desert but myself and the enemy. The word "temptation" has its roots in a word that means "leaning" or "tending." Our temptations are the attractions, habits, safe havens of escape for us. Going into the desert - stripping ourselves of all the noise and distractions (things that lean us or tend us in the opposite direction) - so that we can see more clearly, understand with greater focus, what we are really like - what we are really about.

During Lent, we can see the fault lines, with our eye wide open. We can recognize where the battle for integrity really is, where the struggle for our best self is waged on a day to day basis. Each of us can give ourselves to concretely discovering the place where we teeter between doing what we know is right and good and loving, and responding selfishly, even with revenge and divisiveness. In the desert of Lent, those choice points become clearer and can result in our discovering riches Jesus is offering us in a life that is more whole and balanced, responsive to his grace, and full of self-sacrificing love.

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