Intention: As Lent begins, we may accept God’s call to renew our hearts and ways so that we might be freed from all that binds us and find new life in his saving grace.
Today’s Gospel | Matthew 9:14-15
The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”
A Lenten Reflection
There is a proverb attributed to the philosopher Confucius that reads, “When a wise man points at the stars, it is foolish to stare at his finger.” As absurd is this sounds, it actually is not uncommon for people to do this, to confuse means for ends or even to substitute the former for the latter if it helps them cling to comfort and avoid dealing with the intimidating or the unknown.
In the Gospels, Christ often had to address this problem. He would remind people that the purpose of faithfulness to their religion’s teachings was not to remain ensconced or smug in a cocoon, but to open their minds and hearts to the unpredictable and sometimes confounding ways of God. The function of religious observances is to help us enter more deeply into our relationship with God as he teaches us how to be our true selves for the sake of his Kingdom. Ritual can be an ordinary means to an extraordinary end.
Rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote in God in Search of Man, “The true meaning of existence is disclosed in moments of living in the presence of God.” During the time of Lent, we are called to turn again to our eternal and loving Father. The rituals of Lent are doorways that can help us to do this, to lead us to a place where we might better contemplate God’s presence and activity, and better recognize and embrace that place of wholeness to which he is pointing all of us.
Eternal Father, your Son spoke to a sinful world and brought the gift of reconciliation through his suffering and death on the cross. In this time of Lent, teach us to follow in his path. Help us to put aside our selfishness and pride, our judgments and divisions, our fears and indifference. May our faith, hope, and love turn hatred to compassion, conflict to peace, and death to life, so that together we may share in the salvation that your son has brought to all of us. We ask this of you who lives and reigns with your Son and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.