Monday of the First Week of Lent
The readings for the day can be found here.
The best thing about the Gospel today is also the worst thing: it is incredibly clear, straight to the point, and unequivocal. There is no need to pour through the texts of literary geniuses and theological doctors to get at the real meaning of this passage. The best part about this? Our orders are clear. The pathway to heaven is simplified into a 1-2-3 step process. Jesus doesn’t mince words. The worst part? Well let me phrase it like this. When is the last time you visited a prisoner in jail? Yeah, its been a while for me too.
I’m not here to tell you to go serve at your local food kitchen, or give away some of your older clothes to good will, or to visit the old and sickly members of your family. We are all aware of our duties to those who have less than us, and we all know in our hearts how much of our time, talent, and treasure is spent in that service. Lent is certainly a good time to increase giving in any of these areas. However, Paul reminds us in his First Letter to the Corinthians that “if I give away everything I own, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not love, I have nothing (Ch 13, v3).” I’ll come back to this.
I am incredibly guilty of complaining about my Lenten sacrifices. Already this season, I can remember multiple times where my friends and I bemoan the long stretch of sacrifice until Easter. It is easy to let a lack of coffee, a drive to check Facebook, or a craving for sweets to drive out thoughts of thankfulness or concern for others. In my opinion, the sacrifices I make are supposed to bring me closer to the people around me. It doesn’t matter if I am either bemoaning my sacrifice, or patting myself on the back for my steadfastness. That kind of thought puts myself first, and others second. Unfortunately, the Gospel also reminds us that sacrifice is more than just giving from excess, or a good practice for personal advancement. True giving, in either a physical, spiritual, or mental form, is true love for another. Jesus then reminds us that love of others is love of him.
Let me try to tie together my jumbled thoughts: Lent is a time to put others first, and by loving others, and sacrificing in our lives, we draw closer to our God. So in this time in the Spiritual Desert, let our sacrifices lead us away from self-attention, either good or bad. Let our sacrifice lead to love, and let love lead us to life.
Prayers for all the SLU Community in this blessed time.
“Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.”-Mother Teresa