From the Pastor's Desk
This weekend I am in the Holy Land with a group of 43 fellow-travelers from our parish. It is a pilgrimage of faith that will take us throughout Israel, the land of biblical fame, made holy by the footsteps of Jesus. Today (Sunday), we are in Nazareth at the Church of the Annunciation, built over Mary’s house, where the Angel Gabriel appeared to the Blessed Mother, announcing to her that she would be the Mother of the Messiah. It is fitting that we begin our “tour” of the Holy Land recalling the beginning of this story of stories. Today we will also visit the Church of the Transfiguration, which recalls the mountain top on which the adult Jesus was miraculously transfigured before the Apostles Peter, James, and John, giving them an insight into the suffering and glory, the dying and rising, of Christ. Both of these holy places are historical and are central to the Gospel narrative of God’s desire to redeem his people.
As our First Reading this weekend recalls the story of Noah and the aftermath of the great flood, it is clear that God’s fundamental desire is NOT to destroy, but rather to bless and enliven. Indeed, sin has its consequences. Sin fosters isolation and broken relationships. Sin’s disobedience hastens the darkness and is destructive. Yet, God’s plan is for a new era of life and of grace to break through like the dawn. The original pan of God for the wellbeing of mankind and the harmony of all creation is restored in Christ. Sin will not have the final word. Anger does not rule the day. Rather, a new day of life, grace and peace will be the signature achievement of God for the crowning jewel of his creation, the people he has made his own. But there is a caveat….
The Gospel today tells us to repent and believe in the Gospel. Yes; although God is the grand architect and principal mover in the story of salvation, human beings must also do their part. The old Benedictine adage regarding the spiritual life seemingly captures it: “ora et labora.” Pray and work on behalf of the Gospel, appropriating the ways of God in your life, and you will be saved. This is important, because our faith is not something that is passive. It is not something that should be approached casually or slothfully. Rather, our life of faith is always active and dynamic, and requires a vibrant engagement of our minds, hearts, and souls. God wants to bless and enliven. This is personalized in our individual lives as we welcome his grace into our daily walk of life, surely the direct result of doing our part to align our lives with his holy plans, making the agenda of Christ’s Gospel our own. At the very minimum, this means our demonstration of due diligence in loving God and loving our neighbor as Christ taught us. How else can God’s Kingdom come about? How else can our lives be aligned with the saving message of the Gospel?
This Lent, we are invited to metanoia, i.e., to a “turning around” of our lives. Can we change, for example, turn from spiritual laziness to due diligence? Can we move from stinginess to detachment, from arrogance to simplicity, from over-indulgence to sobriety, from deceit to truthfulness, from pride to humility, from envy to equanimity, from anger to serenity, and from fear to spiritual courage in Christ? It’s really a question of moving from a life directed by our passions to a life of virtue. This is the “good news” of a converted heart: a life that is blessed and enlivened by God through the saving Gospel of Christ. God extends the plan of redemption. Then, is up to us to welcome it in our lives.
The whole story of Lent has to do with the redeeming work of Christ, calling his people back to the house of the Father, transforming their lives by grace, forgiving their sins, and casting out the darkness, so that God’s people may again take their rightful place in the story of God’s dream of a world redeemed. Let us allow Lent to take hold of us, consume us, ennoble and enliven us. The new day in our lives begins with our decision to “repent and believe in the Gospel.”