God will lead us home!

 

First Sunday of Lent

Genesis 9:8-15

I Peter 3:18-22

Mark 1:12-15

 

Do you remember leaving home for the first time? Maybe it was for school, job, marriage, or just to leave to begin a home of your own. In any case at some point, we all leave home. Leaving home can be difficult, frightening, and risky, but the whole process of leaving home begins a new life for us.

Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz said, “There is no place like home!” and she was right. The season of Lent by its very nature calls us to the wilderness. Some of us get into the wilderness by following evil and confusion in our lives. It does not matter how we get there, what matters is, are we willing to spend the time during Lent to allow God to lead us out?

 

In our Gospel, Jesus has left the comforts of his home and is at the Jordon River. He has just been baptized; he has heard the voice of heaven say, “You are my beloved son, and in you, I am well pleased.” There is no time to celebrate, as we are told in our story, “The Spirit drove him out into the wilderness.” It is not the place you want to be driven to, but Jesus is driven there and stays there for 40 days. Jesus needs to go because he needs to be put to the test of his understanding of what he has just been told. It is his understanding of being the beloved Son of God that will allow him to do what he will do in his ministry.

 

In our first reading, Noah left the dry land and his home to sail upon the flood into the wilderness. When the flood reseeds, God makes a covenant with Noah telling him he will never destroy his creation ever again. God tells Noah each time you see a rainbow in the sky it is my reminder to you of this covenant. I think most of us love seeing a rainbow and this is the reason why we do. We need to know this promise when we are in the wilderness of our lives.

 

We spend a lot of our time and energy doing what we think will make us happy or to feel better. It is ok to do this, but it is not the purpose of Lent. The purpose of Lent is to have an authentic relationship with God, and this is done by going into the wilderness of our lives and facing our demons and the wild beasts and finding our way home. It is knowing that God will never leave us because we are his beloved children. That is why the church in her great wisdom gives us our Lenten obligations of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, to help us and to not panic.

 

If we are struggling, can we stand in the wilderness and trust that we will lead us into his loving arms? It does not matter how we begin Lent it what really matters is how we end Lent.

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Why do we fast?

 

Friday after Ash Wednesday

Isaiah 58:1-9

Matthew 9: 14-15

All School Mass

 

Who had steak and eggs for breakfast this morning?

Who is having a bacon cheeseburger for lunch today?

 

Why did you not eat those things?

 

But do you know why we have fasting laws?

 

In our Gospel, Jesus tells us why we have our fasting laws. The Pharisees were complaining about the disciples not fasting. Jesus tells them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? The day will come when the bridegroom will be taken away, and then they will fast.” Jesus is saying, “It like going to a birthday party and there is no cake and no presence.”

 

Here is the other reason that we have our fasting laws. What day of the week did Jesus die? Answer – Friday! We fast on Friday’s from meat so in some small way to remember all that Jesus did for us by dying on the cross. So we should not grumble or complain about fasting, we should embrace it and enjoy it.

 

Do you have some more in you? I hope so because, during Lent, we need to give God more of us.

 

It is ok, to fast from some foods during Lent. We hear from God through the prophet Isaiah that the real fasting God wants us to fast from are actions or words that hurt people. We might fast from calling people names, gossiping about others. What if we were too fast from frowning? Smile at a student and see if they will smile back to me.

 

So, let us fast so we will draw closer to Jesus and be more like him.

 

Choose life!

 

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Deuteronomy 30; 15-20

Luke 9: 22-25

 

Ash Wednesday was yesterday, and we were smeared with ashes to remind ourselves that we are dust and to dust, we shall return. At 2:30 yesterday afternoon a gunman entered the Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS in Parkland, near Fort Lauderdale and began shooting. The most tragic picture for me was a blond haired lady crying hugging a younger woman, and the blond haired lady had a cross of ashes on her forehead. This is a full reminder that we are dust and to dust, we will return. News of this kind always leaves me feeling helpless, a bit frightened, but isn’t it amazing how God’s word speaks to us right when we need it the most?

 

In our first reading, Moses says, “Today I have set before you a choice, of life or death.” He continues by saying, “Choose life!” As the people enter the Promised Land, you would think the decision would be easy, but Moses entices the people even more as he says, “If you choose life, even your descendants will live and know the blessings of the Lord.” Recently, I complimented someone on a job well done. His response to me was, “I am doing what my daddy taught me, and that is to treat people as I want to be treated.” Choose life!

 

In our Gospel, Jesus is facing tremendous sufferings, a suffering that will eventually lead to his death. Jesus gives us hope as he tells us he will rise above all suffering as he will be raised from the dead.

 

May we put our weapons of destruction, which can be our words, thoughts and actions away and take out our weapons of love, peace, and forgiveness? Lent has much to teach as we learn to place our trust in God as we face our hardship and trails. May we pray for and remember all those affected by the shootings in Florida. May we always choose life!

We are dust!

 

Ash Wednesday

Joel 2:12-18 II

Corinthians 5:20-6:2

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

 

Oh, happy Lent! Who is willing to say that along with me? Oh, happy Lent! Yes! I say this because I have been waiting for this day all year long, more than my birthday, more than a vacation, and more than Christmas. It is Ash Wednesday and thanks to God it is here because what we do here today answers the most primitive questions we all have, and that is, “Where is my place in this world?” Today the Church reminds us of our place, “Remember that you are dust and to dust, you shall return.”

 

I need to remember that I am dust, and to dust, I shall return because I look down at myself. When I do this, I tend to seek my place in the world by the recognition and approval you give me. I spend more time worrying and wondering what others think of me then I should. I then compound the problem by trying to something to win your approval so you will like me. Every time I do this I am reminded that I am looking for my place in the world in all the wrong places. I am trying to find my treasure out here, and not in here. Ash Wednesday is about finding our treasure inside of ourselves. No one can give us of our treasure, and no one can give us what we want or need?

 

“Remember that you are dust and to dust, you shall return.” We need to follow the pathway of these ashes. This year’s ashes were last year’s palms. We carried these palms in celebration last Palm Sunday. They were once green and full of life. Then they became dry and brown, and today they are gray ash, as we burned them in the fire. All our accomplishments will eventually fade and grow old and become like these ashes. These ashes have died to remind us of new life.

 

Our readings encourage us to, “Remember that you are dust and to dust, you shall return.” The prophet Joel says, “Return to the Lord with your whole heart.” Jesus in our Gospel tells us he wants us to fast, pray, and do almsgiving but do it all in secret.

 

Our lives are made up of trying to be happy and filled with joy. Lent is more than being happy and filled with joy; it is about finding our true self in God. I just do not just want to do Lent; I want Lent to do me. It is not so important where we begin, but where Lent takes us. So when we leave here today do not wash off the ashes. Rub them in. Rub them in deeply into our being. “Remember that you are dust and to dust, you shall return.”

What about temptation and sin?

 

Tuesday of the Sixth week of Ordinary Time

James 1:12-18

Mark 8:14-21

 

Today is Mardi Gras, or sometimes referred to as, “Fat Tuesday!” It is one of those days of the year we indulge in things before we begin the penitential season of Lent. It is ok, to enjoy ourselves today but in our spiritual lives, we need to be constantly looking out for what could trip us up and spin us out of control. We need to be ready for Lent to begin tomorrow.

 

In our first reading James, speaks very clearly about temptation and sin, but the best thing he says is, “Blessed are those who persevere in temptation they will receive the crown of life.” Two things to know about temptation and sin. The first thing is, most sin does not sneak up on us and smack us in the head. Sin, as James describes it begins with temptation, and it comes over us, and we have time to say, “No” or “Yes.” Take for example gossiping about someone. Gossiping comes from way down here, and we can see it coming, and we have to decide if we are going to say those negative things about someone. There may be lots of reasons to gossip. Most of the reasons are to make us look good in some way. The other thing is sin has no value for us; it does not enhance our lives.

 

In our Gospel, Jesus says, “Watch out, to guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”  Leaven is yeast, which is added to the dough to make it ferment and rise. Jesus is warning them to be watchful of what can rise within them because of the Pharisees and the scribes who are against Jesus and his teachings.

 

May this Eucharist help us to understand the goodness of God better? As we begin the Holy Season of Lent tomorrow, we should already have in mind what we will be doing to grow in love with God. Let us be aware of our sinfulness and what to change. 

 

Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean!

Sixth Sunday Ordinary Time

Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46

I Corinthians 10:31- 11:1

Mark 1: 40-45

Our readings have to do with illness, and because it is cold and flu season, I will make a public health announcement. If you are sick stay home, we can have someone bring you communion. If you are not feeling well do not have exchange the sign of peace, just let the person know you are not feeling well. Another thing to avoid will be not drinking from the cup, do not spread your germs to anyone else. We should all wash our hands as much as we are able. Being sick is not fun, but we do not want to spread our sickness to other people.

 

I like our readings, not because they are about illness, but because they prepare us for Lent to begin on Wednesday. When we are sick, we should separate ourselves from as many people as possible, so we do not infect someone else. When we sin we do the very same thing, we separate ourselves from others by our words thoughts and actions. This week, I said something about someone, and I instantly felt separated from this person, because of my words. We have some sins we do for a long time, so imagine ourselves being separated from the community and not being touched, no high fives, and no handshakes. This is what sin does to us in our lives.

 

A basic Hebrew understanding of God is that he created everything as good. The book of Leviticus lays out what to do if someone in the community has a skin ailment, and this could be many things. The person would have to leave the community so they would not affect anyone, they could not worship in the temple, and they were seen as a great sinner.

 

In our Gospel, a leper approaches Jesus, and he does not do anything he is should have done, but he says everything right. He does not follow the rules of engagement of what a leper is to do. He should have yelled, “Unclean, unclean!” He walks right up to Jesus and says, “Jesus, if you wish, you can heal me.” The man is making a proclamation of faith! The man is saying, “Jesus I know you can heal me, but it is up to you.” Jesus pities the man, one interpretation I read is that Jesus felt so much pity his insides poured out. Jesus says, “I do, will it? Be made clean.” What the leper teaches us is when we are outside of the community because of sin we have to do whatever it takes to make things right.

 

As we gather, our challenge is to ask ourselves, “Well then how sick am I?” As Lent draws closer can we say, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean” because if you do make me clean, then I will make all of my thoughts, words, and action to give you glory. Now that would be some Lenten resolution!

Be open to God’s Word!

 

Friday of the Fifth week of Ordinary Time

Kings 11:29-32; 12:19

Mark 7: 31-37

 

One of my favorite commercials is the ad of children given the news that their school closed for the day. Kids do lots of crazy things to increase the odds of school closings, but it is their reactions to the news that cracks me up. I can only imagine the reactions from our students to the news of school closed for today.

 

In our first reading, we hear the news of the reign of King Solomon closed since he stopped listening to the Word of God in his life. The kingdom is split into twelve tribes with his son getting the smallest tribe, which would be assumed into another.

 

In our Gospel, we hear of a man who is deaf and has a speech impediment, and is brought to Jesus. It is easy to understand how these two handicaps often go together. If you have trouble hearing, you will only mumble what you hear. In ancient times, the gift of hearing gives one the ability to obey another. If you can hear a command, you can do what the person wants. The gift of speech gives one the gift of speech gave one the ability to make a profession of faith to God. What this story exemplifies is that this man is in need of a physical as well as spiritual healing.

 

Many of us here may have some hearing problems; I wear hearing aids to help me with my hearing loss. What I think our readings challenge us to ask ourselves is, “To what degree do we have a spiritual hearing loss?” When we are spiritually deaf, we assume that our voice is the only voice. The cure for being spiritually deaf is not to hear but to be open. Our hearing returns when we are open to the possibility of God’s Word coming to us.

 

In this Eucharist may our ears be open to God’s voice!