Lent theme - Dying and Rising
Dying to Old Patterns of Thinking - Rising to Opennes to the Creativity of the Holy Spirit - 1st Weekend of Lent
“Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" (Romans 6:3-4) While these words from Saint Paul certainly relate to our final death and resurrection into eternal life, dying and rising is the rhythm of each Christian’s daily life. Lent is the time the Church asks us in a particular way to pray about, think about, fast about, what it is in us that has to die (sin) in order that Christ can more fully live in us. As we apply this sacred journey to this challenging time in our parishes, during Lent we will be reflecting on what each of us personally and together as a community has to die to in order that we can rise to being one Body of Christ, one parish.
This week we are focusing on what happens when we die to old patterns of thinking and rise to the creativity of the Holy Spirit. Did you know that when we do the same thing, the same way over a period of time, we actually create ruts in our brains? The longer we do it the more difficult it becomes to move out of the rut. We know this from brain research. But here is how we know it in our daily life. We hear, “That will never work. We tried that once before 15 years ago. They have no respect for how we have done things around here. That’s not the way it works.”
We are being called, at the risk of dying in our ruts to make room for the Holy Spirit to recreate us. When we are SURE that something has to be done in a particular way, we squash the enthusiasm of others, we stop the joy of new discoveries and most of all we risk the death of relationships and communities. We can go to our death with the certainty that we are right. But before that final act, we can ‘kill” so much along the way. Are we willing to die in order that a new Church guided by the truth and creativity of the Holy Spirit can rise? Hear the call of your Baptism!
Dying to Opinions - Rising to God's Truth - 2nd Weekend of Lent
In our culture we are now accustomed to hearing people say, “Well, I don’t know if that’s true for you, but it is for me.” Or, “Think what you want but this is my truth!” Within the span of a couple decades it seems that we have moved from THE truth to my truth. And as is the usual path of evil, it has covered us in subtle but powerful ways. We have come to believe that living my truth is an honorable and noble thing.
In reality the stories in the Scriptures show us what happens when we do not align our truth with God’s truth. Sin, disorder and unhappiness abound. We lose the willingness to dialogue, to truly listen to another. We put our feet down in the quicksand of certainty and righteousness. We begin to think that compromise is losing. It is the surest way to harm a relationship. A psychologist once said to a group of people preparing for marriage, “You have two choices. You can be right or you can be married.” What are we willing to give up to be right? Our families, our friends, a peaceful, joyful life?
As we consider the hard interior work it will take for us to become one Body of Christ in our parish, we focus today on the need to die to our opinions and rise to God’s truth. When we are attending a meeting that requires dialogue and compromise, can we die to our opinions? We might need to ask ourselves before we speak, “Is this my opinion, or God’s truth?” If we are in our pew listening to someone speak to us about an issue we have to address as a community, will we listen and not let our opinions get in the way of hearing what God’s plan might be. St. Paul said other people should look at us and say, “See how they love each other.” That is only possible when we die to opinions and search for God’s truth.
Dying to Selfishness - Rising to Generosity - 3nd Weekend of Lent
In our readings this week the Holy Spirit offers us the opportunity to reflect upon our selfishness. Who wants to do that? Even saying the word in the same sentence with our names makes us uncomfortable. It’s one of the first cautions we hear from our parents, “Don’t be selfish!!” Yet if we are honest it really is a lifetime struggle.
In our first reading we hear the beginning of the story of Moses being asked to leave his simple life and go to Pharaoh. He knew he would gain nothing from this and probably lose everything, maybe even his life. St. Paul reminds us not to grumble about doing what God intends which always includes generosity.
In the Gospel we are being asked what kind of fruit we bear. Even if we produce some fruit, does it taste like the winter fruit that comes from others countries? The fruit that is picked too early and shipped for days or weeks so tastes like sawdust. Or is what we offer others the luscious locally grown peach which drips with juice and explodes with flavor?
As we think about the call to become one parish there is much to consider here. Little children preface almost everything with “my” or “mine.” Sharing or giving is a foreign concept. Do we do the same but in more sophisticated ways? When we think about church or especially our parish do we preface it with “my” or “mine?” Which by the way, isn’t even true. It is God’s Church.
Generosity calls us to love with a bountiful spirit It comes from the heart of a person who knows he or she is blessed Love’s movement is always outward. Dying to selfishness and rising to generosity in order to truly be one parish is an essential part of our spiritual journey. We must understand that generosity is not just about finances, although that is critical for our existence. What about your gifts and talents? Are you generous with those? What about your time? Generous with it? We can no longer be people who think, “If I only had time,” or “What can I do at my age?” or “I tried once and people weren’t friendly.”
A few fruit bearing trees is not enough. We need an orchard with branches weighed down by its luscious fruit to feed each other and the world. Die to selfishness and rise to generosity. Be one in the Body of Christ!