How is your Lent going? Is something changing in your life? Have you determined if anything needs to change to improve your relationship with God? Are you praying? Are you doing anything? We all want to go to Heaven! Does something have to change? Something has to change! That is what Lent is about!
One thing to examine in Lent would be whether or not you are more a child of this world, while resisting becoming a child of God, a citizen of Heaven. How does your behavior have to change to prepare for Eternal Life with God? God won’t force us to go to Heaven. We have to choose God and Eternal Life with Him. How can we know if we are still overwhelmingly children of this world, and resisting God?
One way to learn is to examine how we see the world and our participation in this world. Does the world win all your contests? Does the world get in the way of your prayer and worship? How do you see Jesus, compared to the world in which we live? St. Paul was an expert at this.
Listen to St. Paul speaking of the Jews and Greeks:
Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,
but we proclaim Christ crucified,
a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, ….
The world will not accept our religion. There are many ways our Christian faith is rejected. Jews want signs. They want proof that is in line with their expectations for the Messiah. Remember that they wanted a Messiah to fulfill their image of a Messiah, one that would be a powerful ruler who would kick foreigners out of Israel and allow them to rule themselves without outside interference. They wanted this world more than they wanted God. And they wanted God to make this world as good as Heaven. But, they didn’t want to be friends with God. They didn’t want God. They wanted this world. Do we find ourselves acting like them? Do we try to shape God?
Jesus’ sign was the “sign of Jonah”, the sign of repentance and submission before God. The Jews at the time of Jonah didn’t accept Jonah’s sign and they didn’t want to repent of anything or to submit to God and His teachings. Neither did the Jews of Jesus’ time. They were not looking for a sign of repentance. They could not accept the sign of the Cross and Jesus’ crucifixion. The world does not want to repent or to submit.
The Greeks, or Gentiles (Non-Jews) only accepted the logic of this world, and revered the most educated and powerful of the world. For the world, progress and knowledge of this world were wisdom. This is worldly wisdom, not Divine wisdom. They saw no logic in the Crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus’ crucifixion was stupid, crazy, foolish. Man’s logic and philosophy were above God for the Gentiles. We see the same thing today in current events.
For example, when the Christians from Egypt were beheaded on the beaches of Libya by the ISIS terrorists, the world’s newspapers, leaders and commentators more often referred to them as Egyptians, not as Christians. But we know they were not beheaded for being Egyptians. They were beheaded for being Christians, just like the Syrian Christians who have been killed and captured recently by the ISIS terrorists; like the early Christian martyrs; like the time St. John Paul was shot in St. Peter’s Square, like the ISIS terrorists now threatening to kill Pope Francis. Only a few news reports have shared that the Egyptian Christians joined in praying the Lord’s Prayer together, in unison, just prior to being beheaded. It was in the recordings shown by ISIS. The Egyptian Christians joined in prayer while they suffered martyrdom. But our commentators and reporters translated the Arabic of ISIS terrorists, but not the Arabic of the Christians praying the Our Father. The world doesn’t want to reveal more Christian martyrs.
The world doesn’t understand sacrifice and suffering, or prayer. The world doesn’t understand the Cross of Christ or the faith of Christians. The world is condescending to religion and disbelieving of prayer.
Jesus teaches us to take up our cross and follow him. There is no salvation without repentance, sacrifice and God’s mercy.
Many Christians just want everyone to get along. But, getting along is not our faith. The world refuses to compromise with Christian faith, but demands Christians be accommodating to the world. If getting along means that Christians compromise their faith, then that cannot be our faith. The Egyptian Christians who were beheaded did not compromise their faith. They did not convert to Islam. They prayed the Lord’s Prayer together while they were being beheaded.
Jesus did not compromise when he found the merchants and moneychangers in the Temple. He threw them out of the Temple area. Some people reject his actions, but we need to remember that he was actually witnessing to the faith he came to establish and affirm.
The Temple represented the presence of God to the Jewish nation, the most sacred place in the world. Jesus was not only defending the Temple, he was attempting to get their attention to keep the world out of the Temple. The Temple area was sacred space. He was showing them that you cannot mix worldly commerce with worship and adoration of God. To do so is to lose the sacredness.
In his ministry Jesus was leading us to God and Eternal Salvation. Moreover, he wanted all to see that he was going to replace the worldly Temple of stone with his own body, because he was the Son of God. He was teaching us to know how to keep part of our lives sacred.
Remember the third commandment that we just read in the first reading from Exodus, in the account of the Ten Commandments.
“Remember to keep holy the sabbath day.
Six days you may labor and do all your work,
but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD, your God.
No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter,
or your male or female slave, or your beast,
or by the alien who lives with you.
In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth,
the sea and all that is in them;
but on the seventh day he rested.
That is why the LORD has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
This is our Sunday, the Day of the Lord. Are you keeping Sunday sacred? Keeping Sunday sacred is like Jesus keeping the Temple area sacred. We need sacred space. We need sacred time.
This Lent we should be examining ourselves to see if we are more of this world, or if we are committed to the Kingdom of God. Are we keeping sacred space and time? Does something have to change? Something has to change. Increase your prayer and devotion to God. Don’t waste your Lent. Prepare yourself for Holy Week and Easter with prayer, fasting and almsgiving.