"What are you giving up for LENT?"
"I don't know... what are you giving up?"
"I gave up chocolate last year - don't think I want to do that again!"
The question rings out every year to millions of Catholics. Why do we 'choose' to give something up or do something for a self-penance?
I started this in 2010 and got part way through my journey of reflecting on Lent and taking time for myself, for my Lord and for my family. I am rekindling this idea and have decided to start this process again - below is more of what I wrote in 2010 and with a bit of extra added wisdom over the past six years. But not only will I be attempting to stoke the fire of my passion for the Lord,I will also be focusing on my physical health - eating better and exercising. My goal is to get back to 200-205 lbs at the end of this journey - that is a scant 10-12 lb loss over the course of these 40 days.
I have decided to focus on the 40 days of LENT and talking about the readings of the day and how that matters in my life and how I can better live my life through the word of GOD. Not just abstaining from something... but leading a transformation in my soul to be a better father, a better husband and a better person.
DAY 1 - Ash Wednesday
There are two readings that strike out at me today and I will take them out of order. First, I start with the GOSPEL: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
1 "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2 "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
5 "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
16 "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
What a powerful passage direct from the mouth of Jesus, himself. But how we fall short of following through on his words. I have witnessed many people who profess their Christianity and yet have nothing of Christianity in them. They do not LOVE each other. Infighting and backstabbing or their hallmarks and anger rules their emotions. The passage above invites us to respect our fellow persons, but in a way that is more solemn and quiet. Nobody needs to know you gave $10 or $100 dollars to a charity or a homeless person. GOD KNOWS ALL - GOD SEES ALL. I love closing my door at my office and opening my "Living Faith' booklet and taking a minute to break the word of GOD open. I don't do it as often as I should.
The second reading of the day, Corinthians 5:20:
20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.
What is super important about this passage and the part that I want to drive home, and the ultimate reason for these blog entries moving forward, is that we all need to be Christ's Ambassadors. How beautiful is that? We are not only called to be righteous in Jesus's name to all, but we are called to do it in a way in which our actions speak and not our words. As we practice what Jesus preached about giving to the poor, or praying to GOD or performing acts in his name, we will become better Christians, more fully in the presence of GOD than we can imagine.
My task is to become a better ambassador for GOD and in so doing, become a better Christian for myself. I hope that my thoughts, my opinions, my analysis of the scripture will offer a clearer insight into the Lenten season and will ultimately provide, not a penance, but a rekindling or rebirth of the spirit to be fully realized during Holy Week.