Friday, March 07, 2014

Ash Wednesday homily - "Be generous with God this Lent"

Click HERE to listen to Wednesday's homily.

In one of his first audiences, Pope Francis made a statement of what it means to be a Christian that I want to be our focus as we begin Lent. He said,  "Being Christian... means being in Christ, thinking like him, acting like him, loving like him; it means letting him take possession of our life and change it, transform it and free it from the darkness of evil and sin". This is a strong statement.

Our Pope preaches a strong message about being Christ-like.  And, he practices what he preaches! It is so refreshing to see our shepherd be Christ-like in his own unique way! He represents what the Church is all about: Jesus Christ.  The person of Christ is the center of our religion.  Being more Christ-like is what each of should strive for this Lent.  I'd like to focus on three ways to be more Christ-like, with the Holy Father in mind.

First, be detached.  What we see with Pope Francis is a man who is free, detached from the things of the world.  It is so inspiring to all of us to see him live so simply and detached.  He has said "bag that" to all of the bells and whistles of the in the nice Popemobile for a '84 clunker, getting rid of the Prada shoes, and foregoing so much of the grandeur of the papal office.  He says bag that, I just want to live simply, live like the poor, and serve them.  We try to be more detached during Lent, taking on small penances and fasts so that we will be more attached to Christ.  Christ himself fasted from food and drink for forty days in the desert.  He was totally detached from the things of the world. We try to imitate his detachment so that we will be more attached to Him.

Second, be humble.  When the Holy Father was first interviewed as Pope, he was asked to describe himself.  He answered, "I am a sinner".  That is the Pope! Humility means honesty.  He is simply being honest.  Each person who courageously goes to Confession tonight or during Lent is humbly saying what's true: "Lord, I'm a sinner.  Please forgive me".  Look at the humility of Christ: He came down from His throne in Heaven to be born of the Virgin Mary...into our mess.  He got gritty.  He got dirty for us.  He lived a poor life, humbling himself, even "to the point of death, death on a Cross".  During Lent, we want to come down from our thrones, get dirty, get gritty, and humble ourselves for Christ.

Third, be spiritual and religious.  Last year on Ash Wednesday, I made the same challenge and asked GW Catholics to focus solely on attending Mass every Sunday during Lent.  And, you responded! We had record attendance last year.  I issue the sake challenge.  Even if you fail in your fasts, or forget to go meatless on Fridays, if you attend Mass every Sunday, that's a good Lent!

Jesus says we need to be spiritual and religious.  In John 6:53-54, he says we need to receive the Eucharist if we want to go to Heaven.  When little kids ask me why we need to go to Mass, I tell them it's to get to Heaven, and then quote John 6.  "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.  Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life within you".  We need to be religious and receive the Eucharist at Mass in order to get to Heaven, but also to live like Christ.  Jesus is talking about Grace: "you have no grace within you".  Grace is a share in God's life.  It is a share in His power and strength, His love, mercy, kindness, generosity, and patience. His Grace makes it possible to be like Him! The primary reason we go to Confession or Mass is to receive Grace.  When it comes to bring Christ-like, it's all about Grace.

Finally, be generous.  Be generous with God this Lent.  The saying is, "God is never outdone in generosity".  We see this played out in the small sacrifices we make for Him during Lent; He gave us the biggest sacrifice of all - His life on the Cross.  Be generous with Him this Lent in your prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  He will surely reward you because He is never outdone in generosity.

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