Lent starts this week and I'd like you to get into it. Not just giving up candy or cutting back on cigarettes, but radically. It kicks off with the triad of Almsgiving, Prayer and Fasting. The Church is very wise to present them to us. Actually, exercising any of them, or all of them, is worth nothing if the intent is not a pure search for God - to enter more deeply into the mystery, the reality, the person that He is. After all, most of us want to spend the rest of our lives - eternity - in Him. That means we have to start now. Let's start with the giving of alms. It does not matter how much we give, or what we furnish. Do we recognize that all we have, everything, is a gift, right down to our very existence? Think of the widow's mite, think of the widow: everything in creation has a purpose and it is in the little things that the trace of the finger of God can be discerned. Alms give form to the love of God moving among us as His servants fulfill the needs pointed out to them. It need not be gold or silver or nickel or copper; simply to be present and attentive to the persons and needs around us is all that His love demands (Psalm 123.) But we have to make room for that possibility; radically alter our viewpoint. Fasting has fallen out of favor. Perhaps it's because we concentrate on dieting too much. But that has to do with the self, how good we look. Fasting is an exercise in humility before God. We willingly bring discipline to our appetites to bring it into focus: the plain gift in a crust of bread, or the cool marvel in a sip of water. Can you savor the silence away from the din of the TV, search out a sunset or the surprising smile of a child? Can you enjoy the presence of a loved one as you break bread together? Retreat from the rich dimensions of life; change wardrobe, scramble the daily calendar, get out of the rut, be radical. Prayer is another dimension altogether, perhaps the thing that gets us closest to God. We talk with Him, person-to-person, as Lord, Savior, creator, friend. Christ in the Gospel ask us to retreat to our room, not so much to ask but to listen. Perhaps we'll shift from a tight grip on the control stick to the sweet surrender of Him who truly knows what is best for us. Prayer takes much practice and an openness to wander out into the desert. There are many aids. The most disciplined is the Liturgy of the Hours practiced by the church since its earliest days. Come see me for an introduction. Or if you are free mornings (retired, off-shift ...) join us for Morning Prayer as we join, listen and pray the psalms that have echoed from lips through the millenniums. The discipline is strange at first, but over time the rhythms and images will bring their own peace. We are praying with the parish and for the parish; we implore and embrace the saints along the way; we meet God. Join us at 8:30 AM, a half hour before Mass. Get earlier to bed, earlier to rise, get going! Be radical!
Let us surrender again.