Mark 1; 12-15. First Sunday in Lent. February 18th, 2018
“Repent and Believe in the Gospel, for the Kingdom of God is at Hand.” These words of our Blessed Lords that are found in today’s Gospel are at the very heart of our Lenten Observance. In fact, they are at the very heart of the entire Gospel.
Repent, that is turn away from those things that are keeping you from fully embracing Jesus, for He is the Kingdom of God Personified. Repent---turn away from sin and selfishness, from pride and error and turn to--embrace the Truth of the Gospel expounding fully in the Teachings of the Church. Live this Truth, so that give yourself more completely to Jesus—He who is the Truth, and be more perfectly and intimately united with Him in His Kingdom.
Repentance therefore, is more than just a turning away from Sin, it is even more than merely changing our lives for the better. Repentance is first a foremost a turning to Jesus more fully, giving ourselves and our lives to Him more completely, so as to live the Will of God already on earth as it is in the Kingdom of Heaven.
This is what is at the heart of our “giving up” something during Lent. We give up something we desire, some good, in order to increase our desire, our spiritual desire for the only One that is truly Good—Jesus. Jesus is the only One that can satisfy our true Hunger and thirst. And so, our fasting during Lent, is only successful if leads us closer to Jesus.
At the end of Lent, we can say, I succeeded in giving up chocolate or coffee for Lent, look how “good” I am. But can we say that being successful in giving up chocolate or coffee for Lent has changed me? Or did it just cause me to become grumpy with my family while I was trying to go without these things to prove how good I am. Will we be able to say, that our Lenten sacrifice has lead us to a deeper repentance from sin and to a turning more fully and offering our heart, our life and all that we are and have more trustfully and more completely to God, from Whom all good things come?
A truly successfully Lent then, as well as a truly successfully life with Christ, always begins and ends with Holy Mass. The Mass is that one place, like no other, where we can truly encounter the Kingdom of God in Person in the Holy Eucharist. It is here, where after we have repented of our sins and confessed them in the Sacrament of Confession before a priest, that we can turn more fully toward the Lord who comes to us in the Holy Eucharist, through His Passion, death and Resurrection. The Holy Eucharist is our Heavenly Food, because it is truly Jesus; therefore, the Holy Eucharist alone can satisfy our hungry heart.
But before we can grow in our desire for the Holy Eucharist and receive it more fruitfully-so it can transform us in to other Christs, we must, like in Lent, “give up” something--namely Ourselves and offer all we have on the altar with Jesus to the Father. We must give up everything, placing it on the Altar in a loving and trusting sacrifice to the Lord.
But we must not only give up to Him our whole heart and all that we have and possess, but we must also give up to Him our sins as well—we must place all our sins on the altar.
There too on that altar, we must place our failure to Love Him above all else, and give up to Him those areas of our lives that we love too much and are reluctant to offer up to Him right now, or are too scared to give up to Him because we are afraid He might take them from us in this life. We must give up to Him our petty grudges, our refusals to forgive, our cherished ways of doing things, our fixed perceptions of others, our stubborn refusal to change, or even to admit, those aspects of our lives that are displeasing to the Lord. We must give up to Him all of our fears as well, placing them on the paten at Holy Mass and totally surrendering ourselves in complete abandonment to His Holy Will; His Holy Will which is Love and Mercy Itself.
Speaking of fear. The Liturgical time of Lent reminds us that soon there won’t be anything to be scared of, because Easter is Coming. At Easter Jesus has conquered our fear. He has conquered sin and that greatest of all fears death; not just the fear of earthly death, but of eternal death, of eternal separation from God.
Jesus has triumph over the grave. And through the sacraments He has left us, we too can share in His victory; through the power of Holy Mass, which is the power of Divine Love, we too can conquer sin and so conquer fear and death. All provided we give up all to Jesus.
But the devil will come. He will lie to us He will tempt us with the things of this world—to seek happiness in this world alone. He will tempt us with fear, tempt us with the fear of what it will cost to follow Jesus fully, tempt us with the fear of giving up, of offering up everything to Jesus. To those who fall into his temptations and try to hang on only to the things of earth, afraid to lose their lives for Jesus, they will lose both earth and heaven and eternal life besides.
But for those who give up the things of this world, for those who give up their life to Jesus, they will gain heaven and earth, and eternal life besides, because they will obtain Jesus, and through Him, they will obtain the Father and the Holy Ghost and so the fulfillment of all their hopes and desires. And then all that they have given up to the Lord, all that they have entrust to His safe keeping, will be return to them a hundredth fold besides.
Let us turn to the virgin for help, she is our Lady of Perpetual help. She will help us to overcome the temptation of the devil. She will help us to overcome all of our fear. If you look at the image of our Lady of Perpetual help closely, you will notice that the sandal of the child Jesus in her lap is hanging on to Jesus foot only by a strap. You see, Jesus was out playing in the yard and two angels appeared holding the instruments of the passion—the cross, the nails, the crown of thorns. Little Jesus is so scared, and He runs so fast to His mother that his sandal slips off his foot and dangles as He jumps into the waiting outstretched arms of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Her arms are outstretched for us as well. Let us run to her as fast as did Jesus. There in her loving and safe embrace, let us ask her to help us overcome fear and through her Immaculate Heart, give up everything, EVERYTHING on this altar at this and at every Holy Mass, trusting it all to the Lord God from Whom it all came anyway. Let us ask the Mother of God, to help us to cut the strings, to undo the knots that bind us from loving Jesus above all things and living for Him alone. Our Lady of Perpetual Help; Our Lady undoer of knots, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Amen.