Corpus Christi Blog

Preparing for Lent

03-03-2019HomiliesFr. Chad King

Ready or not, the season of Lent begins Wednesday. Yes, we celebrate Ash Wednesday in a couple of days. Are you ready, do you know how you are going to draw closer to our Lord this season? What you’re going to give up or take on this Lent? Perhaps you’re thinking, whoa I can’t believe the season is upon me already, so maybe I’ll just do what I’ve done before. Well, before you think about falling into that pattern of doing what you’ve always done, let us first think about what the purpose of lent is and reflect on what Jesus says in our Gospel today. Have you ever thought about what the purpose of Lent might be? Maybe you’re thinking, well it is to prepare for Easter. Yes, you’re right, then what is the purpose of Easter? As you know, during Holy Week and Easter we celebrate the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Easter and the Resurrection is the source of our salvation, the source of the forgiveness of our sins. A couple of weeks ago, St. Paul in the second reading said, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain; you are still stuck in your sins”. Jesus took all the sins of humanity, past, present, and future, to the Cross, and by his Death and Resurrection, then we have the forgiveness of our sins, that is, we don’t have to be stuck in our sins. Therefore, if the purpose of Lent is to prepare us for Easter, then it should be said, that the purpose of Lent is to help make the Death and Resurrection of Jesus effective in our lives, which will lead us to grow in our discipleship of following Jesus more closely. Have you thought about that- the purpose of Lent is to help you grow in holiness and follow Jesus more closely? Many people tend to give up something, usually something small, during Lent, and then look forward to taking it up again, sometimes over-indulging after Easter. If that has been you, think about if have you met the goal of growing closer to God by doing that? It is OK to give up something, even something small, but we must do it for the purpose it is intended. The purpose is to grow and strengthen your self-discipline so that the discipline can then be applied to another area of need in our lives. But ideally, the purpose of Lent is to begin something that will help bring about a lasting change in us away from sin and closer to God. Now let’s look at the Gospel for a few ideas.

Jesus says in our Gospel today, “No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher”. In Jewish culture, young boys who were privileged to be found worthy to become a disciple of a Rabbi would leave their families and literally follow the Rabbi wherever he went to learn from him- to learn how he spoke and the lifestyle he lived, to learn to see things from his perspective, to answer like him, so indeed, they would follow in order to become like the Rabbi. Therefore, the first disciples understood what they were doing in following Jesus, they understood they were learning to become a fully-trained disciple, to become like Jesus. The purpose of Lent is to help grow in our discipleship and more like Jesus. We are to be transformed, our old selves with vices to this and that is to be shed, and we are to more fully reflect Christ in our daily lives. So, as you reflect on your past experiences, if you have not experienced a transformation throughout Easter then, it is time for you and me to become fully-trained and to be more purposeful this Lent.

Let’s reflect on what or who is training or forming us presently. What do you spend most of your time doing, who or what forms you? Maybe news is what forms you, maybe it is politics, maybe you spend a lot of your time watching sitcoms or sports on TV. Not to say they are necessarily bad, but ask yourself how much time you spend doing that, and does that help you draw closer to God? Perhaps you find yourself listening about too much about the world’s challenges that you get frustrated and maybe even angry. It is good to care about the world, but not if we lose focus on our pursuit of Heaven. If you’ve done that, our Lord is calling you to cut some of that intrigue of the world out so that He can form you more. He is inviting you to use the time that you are being consumed by worldly concerns and do something that will fulfill you eternally. So, ask what the Lord wants you to replace that time with, maybe it is to pray more, or read the Bible, or other spiritual reading. Or maybe just sit with Our Lord in Adoration and reflect on His goodness and mercy.

Perhaps, you’ve been formed by the culture so much that you don’t know if you believe in a certain teaching of Jesus and His Catholic Church. Maybe it is Contraception, Abortion, or Homosexual marriages, or any other Church teaching you struggle with and you wonder if you should follow the Church. Try and think, about who / what taught you to doubt or question that Church teaching- friends, that is what is forming you. Or maybe there are other aspects about the faith that you’ve been curious about and you want to learn and become fully trained. A great way to grow closer to God this Lent would be to read about a Church teaching, research it, pray about it, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand it, so that you can be formed by the truth of God. You can start by reading the Catechism or checking out a book from our parish library. The more you know about God and Church teaching, the more you’ll love God and the Church.

In our Gospel Jesus asks us, why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? So, what are the wooden beams, what are the sins that you need to rid yourself of? Hopefully you are not blind to what your sins are. This Lent is a perfect time to work on ridding yourself of a sin in a focused way. Think of a sin that you might want to root out of your life- what concrete steps do you need to do that? Think about if there is a time or place that you most often fall into that sin. Then, make a plan of what you are going to do when that time or place comes up. For instance, if you tend to get irritated or angry in the car at other drivers. A good thing to do is to put on Catholic radio or Catholic music on in the car, or maybe you pray and talk to God in the car, that might help you to not get so irritated when you drive. But you can also go one step further, use the driving time to say a prayer for that other driver, and ask God to help you not get so frustrated so quickly. Remember, Lent is a time to look at what are the wooden beams, the sins, in your life, and to make concrete steps to rid it out of your life.

Notice that Jesus says that we should work on helping take out the splinters of other peoples. So, if there is a relationship you have that you need to talk to them and try to get them to stop a particular sin, then maybe a helpful approach is to think about your sin first. If you have had the same habit or can relate their shortcoming with one of your own, that might help you approach the subject and your humble sharing can give them motivation to start cutting that sin out of their heart and life. Once again, helping each other comes only after we have started working on ourselves.

Finally, Jesus also says, a good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, and the same for an evil person; “for from the fullness of his heart the mouth speaks”. In other words, the mouth speaks that which is in our hearts. So, if you tend to sin with your tongue, you catch yourself complaining, cussing, gossiping, or any of the other common sins of the tongue. Again, a good practice is to say a prayer as soon as you recognize you are doing that and ask that the Lord will give you a deeper love in your heart for that person you are complaining or gossiping about. And then to think of nice or good things about that person, instead of letting the things you dislike fester in your heart.

These practical insights from our Gospel for this Lent will deepen your relationship with God. So I ask you, this Lent are you planning to do something you might have done in the past, but then go back to your old way of life after Easter, or are you willing to take the challenge to use this Lent to help make a lasting change in your life- to purposefully rid yourself of sin and grow in your discipleship? Remember, the purpose of Lent is to let the Death and Resurrection for the forgiveness of sins more tangible and effective in our lives. And so Lent is a great time to come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to confess and be forgiven of your sins. Remember, at minimum the Church calls us confess our sins at least once a year or whenever one is aware of mortal sin. So, I encourage you to take the next couple of days and ask our Lord to show you what sin He wants you to work on to root out of your life or what way He wants you to grow in your discipleship and more like Him. Then think of one or two concrete and practical ways you to grow in doing that. Let’s make this Lent the best one yet- one that really jumpstarts our discipleship in a deeper way. Will you take the Lenten challenge?