Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In my homily on Ash Wednesday, I talked about how quickly everything in this world slips away, like sand that slips through our fingers. There is nothing we can do to hold on to anything. Everything fades, passes away, and crumbles into dust.
Those of you who are a little older know the feeling that life is slipping through your fingers: your health is weaker, you cannot do what you used to, maybe you are no longer able to drive or live in your own house and maybe your friends are passing away one by one. However, when those of us who are younger stop to think about it, we have also had these experiences. Friends we used to know have moved away or just drifted away, the good times from high school or college have passed behind us, and every day seems to go by so quickly.
While the truth that everything passes can be disheartening, it can also be very reassuring, because it means that bad times pass quickly as well. Winter doesn’t last forever, problems don’t last forever, wars don’t last forever, governments don’t last forever. All the problems we worry about today are going to pass away sooner or later.
While everything passes, God remains. God does not pass away, God never fails, God never fades or grows dim, and God never crumbles. The whole purpose of daily prayer is to keep our minds and hearts rooted in the one thing that really endures, which is God.
A lot of people miss this truth because they think about prayer as something that we have to do. Just like you have to brush your teeth, you have to get your daily prayers prayed. It is better to think of prayer as a pause in our daily life to spend some time with God. We take a break from the current of emotions, news, and the people around us to spend a little time with God.
Think of your daily life as a house; your daily life can be build on rock (God) or on dirt (other people) or on sand (the government and human institutions) or on water (the daily news) or on wind (the emotions of the day). Which if these things have the biggest impact in your guiding your thoughts and actions in daily life? The whole purpose of daily prayer is to keep our heart and mind rooted in God, rather than in the things that change and crumble.
Peace and Blessings,
- Last Week -
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Lent is just around the corner! This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, and the journey towards Calvary and Easter begins. Some of our Protestant brothers and sisters have a tradition of tent revivals where a minister comes into town to preach a message of repentance from sin. The Catholic Church has built a revival into its year, since the Church celebrates every Lent as a time of revival and spiritual renewal.
Those of you who are older remember that before the 1960’s, the focus was on communal penance. The whole Church was abstaining from meat every Friday, for example, and Lent was celebrated as a time of fasting. The 1960’s brought a lot more focus on the individual (remember self-actualization?) and since that time there has been a bigger focus on personal penance. My generation is used to Lent meaning the perennial question “What are you going to give up?” This is great because it lets us tailor our penance for what is most necessary for our soul. Are we constantly getting angry at the news? Then giving up watching the news might be the perfect penance. At the same time, we can let ourselves off easily by choosing something that sounds good but isn’t a big deal for us.
Some communal penance is still a part of Lent. All Catholics who are 14 years old and older are required to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and on all the Fridays of Lent. Also, anyone who is from 18 to 59 years old is required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. A fast day in the Church is a day when you only eat one meal, which is normally eaten in the middle of the day. You are allowed to have a little something in the morning and the evening if it is necessary to keep up your strength.
It is really easy to forget these regulations so I would suggest you take down your calendar and write “No meat!” on Ash Wednesday and on the next six Fridays.
These are the minimum requirements and anyone who is in good health can certainly do a little bit more than this. For example, you could choose to abstain from meat on Wednesdays as well as Fridays, or you could choose to make every Friday during Lent a fast day.