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Fr. Ron's Blog

Dear Friends,

I hope everyone made a good beginning of Lent by their observance of Ash Wednesday. From my informal observation, it seemed that the numbers were closest to pre- pandemic numbers we last saw in 2020. While some decry what they see as A & P Catholics (ashes and palms), I see it as a sign that somewhere in people’s deepest consciousness, there is still a glimmer of faith and it is our calling as a community, the whole community, to help that glimmer grow until it becomes a bright light, shinning in the darkness of our world. Let’s all be dedicated to that. If you know someone, or some family that came on Wednesday, encourage them to come again during this Lenten season.

Today is the 1st Sunday of Lent. We all know about Lent. When I think about Lent, I think about “giving up,” about fasting, about the “color purple,” (not the movie), about “hot cross buns,” (Remember them? I think you have to be a person of my age to know what they were), about trying to figure out the 40 days, do they include or not include Sundays? Lent is filled with so many images.

But Lent is really a journey. Theologically and liturgically it is a remembering, of Moses’ 40 days on Mount Sinai, of Elijah’s 40 day trek to that same mountain centuries later (and we will meet the two of them again in next week’s Gospel), of the 40 years journey of the Hebrews through the wilderness and the 40 day journey of Jesus through the desert. And for us, it is a 40 day reflection on our own journey through life, or, at least, through this past year, or, maybe, through these last three years, as we remember, but certainly not celebrate, that fateful day in March when the world changed, perhaps forever. What it really should be for us is a 40 day examination of my life with Jesus. Where am I in my life? How did I get here? Is this where I want to be? Where am I going? Where do I want to go? And how do I get there? And most importantly, do I know that Jesus is with me? Do I feel His presence? Am I aware of and living the Christ-life that’s within me?

And how do I answer these questions? Simple. By comparing, stacking up my life with the life of Jesus, and some of the characters we will meet in these days ahead. Of course, doing it on a daily basis by coming to daily Mass would be the best—to hear the stories, reflect on my own life and learn the lessons, and then make whatever changes are needed in my life. But even if we only come on Sundays, the opportunities to do the same are there as well. The Church has a story to tell. It is a story about living, a story about coping, a story about salvation. But most of all, it is a story about a God who loves us, became one of us, to walk with us in this journey. And if we listen, the story can turn that glimmer I spoke of into a blazing light that will show us the way.

And where does it start, this story? It starts in the desert. Jesus is led there by the Spirit—as part of God’s plan for Him. Why? Maybe because it represents the lives that His brothers and sisters (you and me) live every day, the circumstances we confront as we travel through time. And what do we see Jesus face, in the desert? The same seductions that we face every day. Be popular. Be powerful. Make sure you get everything you deserve (or think you deserve). Take the easy way. Amass as much as you can, money, things, control. Whatever! Expect God to do what you want, when you want it. All of these temptations, which come at us every day, are wrapped up in the ones Jesus faced—the stones to bread, the kingdoms of the world, throw yourself down.

And what did Jesus do at those moments? Do you think He just wanted to impress the Devil with His knowledge of Scripture? The word of God that was on His tongue, as His response, was not just a sign of His knowledge; it was a sign of God’s closeness to Him, in His heart and mind. And because of that closeness, He, the human Jesus, was able to resist. The same can be true for us. You and I can resist, if God is close.

I invite you to use this Lent to say no to Satan in these very real temptations of modern living as Jesus said no in His time and circumstance. And to use the tools Scripture tells us Jesus used, prayer, fasting, and others as well, daily Mass, almsgiving (to charities, those in need, the Annual Appeal). The success of the Lenten season is not marked by the rigor with which you celebrate it, or even the fidelity in keeping your Lenten resolution(s). It is marked by the success in fighting those temptations which keep us from a closer relationship to the Lord and keeps us from the effective witness of His life and love. When the Lenten season is over, will you be able to say with St. Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me”? (Gal.
2:20). This is the real goal of Lent.

God bless your Lenten journey,
Fr. Ron




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