Instructions for Lent

Pretty cool cover of a lovely song:

Here is a homily for the First Sunday of Lent:

In the original Lent, the Lord Jesus spent forty days praying and fasting in solitude. The devil came to tempt Him. Christ rebuffed the devil by quoting Scripture three times.

1. “Man does not live by bread alone.”

2. “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him alone will you serve.”

3. “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”

Let’s see who is really on-the-ball. When the Lord quoted these words of Scripture, which book of the Bible was He quoting? All three verses come from the same book.

That’s right: Deuteronomy! The Lord quoted one of the ancient books of Moses, from the time when the Israelites were on pilgrimage from Egypt to the Promised Land.

Our pilgrimage of Lent begins with a reading from this same book, with instructions for us to follow:

1. You shall bring a basket with your offerings to the priest in front of the altar.

Okay. No problem. We do that every Sunday. What else?

2) You shall declare before the Lord, my father was a wandering Aramean.

Alright. Hold on.

The wandering Aramean is Jacob, also called Israel. He was the father of twelve sons. The descendants of these twelve sons became the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob was the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham. Abraham was an Aramean, a nomad who wandered across the desert from the east, into the fertile land of Canaan.

Our salvation began with this family of ancient nomads. They were living worldly lives. But then they heard the call of God and obeyed. The wandering Arameans are our forefathers in faith. Our covenant with God began with them.

The covenant between God and man had been broken at the beginning of time, when Adam and Eve sinned. God created us in a covenant with Him. Our heritage was to have been God’s blessing. But our First Parents disobeyed God, and sin became our inheritance instead.

God made us to be His friends, to trust Him, obey Him, love Him, serve Him with joyful hearts. But instead we became strangers, consumed with our own petty little pursuits, suspicious of God’s commandments, ignorant of the truth about Him.

The Lord could have left us to stumble into oblivion. It would have been no more than we deserved. But instead He reached out. He spoke. He formed a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He blessed them and promised them great things, things so great that they could not even understand it all.

One of the things the Lord promised was that He would liberate Abraham’s descendants from slavery. God did this when the Israelites cried out to Him from their bondage in Egypt. The Lord called Moses and told him to lead the people across the Red Sea.

This was just the beginning of the wonderful saving deeds of the covenant. In the end, God Himself came to the earth to be the new Moses, to conquer the ultimate slave-master, to lead the people through the water of Baptism into the Kingdom of heaven.

So the instruction from Deuteronomy actually is for us. We are truly children of the wandering Aramean. Jacob believed that God would fulfill His promises. We believe that God has fulfilled them. We have the same faith in the same God that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had—we just have it at a later point in time. They believed in the Messiah to come; we believe in the Messiah Who has come.

If we are their children, then, we acknowledge, as our forefathers did, that our loving Creator has done great things for us. If we are the Aramean’s descendants, when we put our offering in the basket to go to the altar, we put ourselves in there, too.

It is the least we can do, considering all He has done for us. Gratitude demands no less than the complete gift of ourselves to God. Abraham offered himself in this way, and Isaac and Jacob. It is the ancient tradition of our family to give ourselves completely to God.

So here is one thing for us all to give up for Lent. If we could all give this one thing up, then we could have a holy forty days and come to Easter with true joy. The problem is, it is a very hard thing for anyone to give up. It is harder to give up than candy, harder than giving up eating meat, harder than giving up t.v., or movies, or music, or web-surfing. Harder than giving up talking too much or driving too fast or drinking too much coffee.

Ready? This is what we should give up for Lent: Let’s give up taking for granted anything that God gives us. Anything.

Do I take for granted that God knit me together in my mother’s womb? Do I take for granted that He sustains me at every moment? Let me give up taking that for granted.

Do I take for granted that the Lord has always provided people to love me and take care of me, that the Lord has always kept a roof over my head, food in my mouth, shoes on my feet? Let me stop taking that for granted.

Have I taken for granted the fact that the Lord has looked at all the sins of the human race, especially mine—my meanness and smallness, my ignorant and nasty behavior—He has looked at all of it and instead of lowering the Almighty boom, He instead sent His own sweet Son to take my punishment for me?

Do I take that for granted—that I would be on the express-train to hell if it weren’t for Jesus Christ? Let me stop taking that for granted.

Do I take the Holy Mass for granted? At the consecration, are my thoughts all over the world, instead of focusing and saying to my Lord, “Have mercy, have mercy, have mercy. Thank you. Praise you. We love You. Please forgive all our many sins”?

Do I take for granted the fact that, in spite of my utter and complete unworthiness to receive Him, Christ nonetheless comes down from heaven to be my spiritual food in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar? Do I take for granted that the Lord humbles Himself to live in the tabernacle so that He is always nearby when I need Him?

Let me stop taking God for granted! For Lent, let’s give up taking God, our Lord, our Savior—let’s give us taking for granted anything He gives us!

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