Joel 2, 12-18 – Psalm 51 – 2 Corinthians 5, 20-6, 2 – Matthew 6, 1-6, 16-18
February 10, 2016 at St Peter the Apostle Parish & St William Parishes in Naples, FL.
For some of us, and I may well be one of them, this will be our last Lent. With that thought, we might get serious about these forty days, because they are about being prepared for death. That is why we will mark ourselves in a few moments with the ashes to which we shall return. It might then be about time we take this season seriously since it might well be our last chance to get ready for the dawn of our new life.
The Prophet Joel shouts: “Return to me with all your heart.” Where in the world did we ever get the idea that giving up a few goodies like chocolate or martinis or dropping some loose change into the poor box was really enough to prepare us for death or lead us to celebrate the greatest event in history? In fact, is six weeks enough? Viewed in the light of what this season is really about, those things seem rather trivial and silly. God wants more. God deserves more, God expects more. God wants conversion, and that means that something about us will change. That kind of conversion of heart means a lot more than figuring out what to give up.
Fasting is not for weight loss. If that is your goal with fasting: “Amen I say to you, You have already received your reward.” God’s not interested. Real fasting stirs up our hunger for God. Instead opening the door of the refrigerator for snacks, we ought to opening the door of a church for prayer. The giving of alms is not just a seasonal or occasional gift to the poor or some worthy cause remembering to get a tax deduction. If a tax deduction is even in your mind when you give: “Amen I say to you. You have already received your reward. Expect nothing from God. The giving of alms means we stop using the money we have for only ourselves and take seriously the work of the church and the needs of others. When half this world is starving and we spend money on cosmetics, and another pair of shoes there is need for conversion of heart. When there is time to talk and gossip about the faults and mistakes others have made, there ought to be time for some serious prayer about our own mistakes, and certainly some time to ask forgiveness. That would count as a real conversion.
If every Lent was lived as if it were our last, and if every day were lived as though it was our last, we might well find ourselves prepared for that death we acknowledge today, and even more prepared for the surprise and the joy of what will follow for those have seriously and consistently turned their hearts to God.