Archive for the ‘1st Sunday’ Category

Do We Need Lent? 2-21-2021

Sunday, February 21st, 2021

Someone asked me, do we need Lent? A good question.
There was a time, of course, when all Christians thought they
didn’t need Lent. After all, they had been baptized; they were filled with
the Holy Spirit and lived life quite differently from the pagans. The first
real Lenten people were not Christians, but those preparing to become
Christians. But all of that changed when the old-timers in the Christian
community noticed something remarkable at the Easter baptism. They
were struck by the joy and the radiant faces of those just baptized. They
realized that they had become too ho-hum in their faith and decided to
do something about it. And so, the next year, some Christians began to
join the catechumens in their preparation for baptism at Easter. They did
this so that they could feel once again the joy of rebirth at Easter. And
that’s how Lent gradually came to the church, out of need.
The liturgy for this First Sunday of Lent focuses on a need that
Jesus had before he began to save the world. Even though he had just been baptized and was “full of the Holy Spirit,” he felt a need to go into
the desert. In the desert Jesus realized who he was and what he was
called to do. But in the desert, Jesus learned that God cannot be bought
and that life is more than bread or fleeting moments of magic and glory.
One Ash Wednesday, a few years ago, while I was wondering how
to face another Lent, I received a phone call from a former player I
coached. He was now a struggling graduate student. The young man was
crying out for help. When I got to his apartment, I found a tortured
person, filled with self-doubt and booze. Eventually, I got him to go to
his first AA meeting. But even though he was an alcoholic, he told me
that he couldn’t go back to another AA meeting because, “I’m not like
those people.” I’ve never forgotten that line, “I’m not like those people.”
It taught me that the first temptation to avoid is to convince yourself that
somehow you are different, that you don’t share the pain of life, that you
don’t need to go into the desert.
The early Christians, even though they were baptized and
convinced of their importance, learned from the desert experience of Lent that they too were in need of renewal and of finding out who they were and who God was calling them to be. Jesus, just baptized by John
and “full of the Holy Spirit,” went into the desert and came out with a
gospel and a firm faith in his Father that he would take to Cavalry.
My young friend was wrong. We are like those people who share a
common struggle and a common pain. We are all driven by some
doubts. We sometimes make choices about the most important events of
our lives without reflection, without faith, without prayer, without God.
We cannot force Lent upon ourselves. Each of us must find a need for it,
a need to go into the desert and face both our gifts and our limits, a need
to face ourselves, our demons, our God. For those who ask the question,
do we need Lent? Trust me – we do! Let’s go into the desert together
and see what we find.

First Sunday of Advent 11-29-2020

Sunday, November 29th, 2020

It’s been a long year of waiting: waiting to determine the depth of
the danger, waiting for a sense of how long, and waiting for clear
directions as to what to do next.
For some, the waiting has been especially excruciating: waiting
and hoping that our loved one will survive – for some families, that hope
crashed into grief.
Many have lost hope that their jobs will ever return and are
desperate for some sense of what to do next.
Now, as winter begins, we continue to wait: for a vaccine, for a
return to normal, for the next crisis.
Yes, the waiting has been painful and distressing. But, for many of
us, this pandemic Advent has also been a time of change and conversion:
We’ve grown closer to our families. We have a new appreciation of
those who work hard – and mostly unnoticed – to keep open the services
we need to function. We’ve realized that God has raised up many saints
in our midst, courageous and brave prophets clad in PPE. And we understand as we’ve never understood before how much we need one
another and can’t wait to re-connect with family and neighbors and
friends and classmates live, in person, not on a screen via Zoom or
Skype.
This year of 2020 has been one long Advent – and it’s not over.
But is has been an Advent of discovery, of awareness, of insight; an
Advent for seeing with new hearts and spirits God in our midst.
The late Father Henri Nouwen wrote that our lives are a continuing
Advent, an Advent in which “the Lord is coming, always coming. When
you have ears to hear and eyes to see, you will recognize him at any
moment of your life. Life is Advent; life is recognizing the coming of
the Lord”. Waiting is often the cost of love: in waiting we realize our
powerlessness; we realize our deepest hopes and wants; we realize the
gift of those we love in our lives. As we struggle through this especially
difficult Advent of 2020, may we open our homes and hearts to the light
of God’s compassion and peace in these dark, difficult days. Amen

First Sunday of Lent 3-1-2020

Sunday, March 1st, 2020

On T.V. today, we see a lot of political debates. Reporters
usually interview the winners and losers. To the losers, the
reporters often ask very blunt and often irritating questions.
I would like to take you to one of those interviews—except
the participants are not politicians.
They are Jesus and the Devil. The Devil, like in the gospel,
has just lost very badly in his debate with Jesus over such things as
power, prestige, values. I believe it would go like this—let’s
listen:
“Mr. Devil – How are you feeling after the debate?”
“Terrible, lousy – how would you feel if you just got your _____
kicked by Jesus?
“Do you plan on a rematch — A second debate?”
“You can count on it, but next time, I am going to develop a
new strategy, a new plan of attack! I’ll tell you one thing, Mr. Reporter, the next time I won’t be wearing a red outfit with horns
and a tail. That outfit is too obvious. I must come up with some
new outfits, with some new temptations, and remember this—you
can count on one thing—I am not going away!” shouted the Devil.
Till the day we die, we are going to be tempted to do or say
things that hurt ourselves—hurt others—and damage our
relationship with God. We are going to wrestle on a regular basis
with how to keep things like food, work, relationships, sex, money,
computers, sports, the list goes on—how do I keep them in a
healthy perspective and not abuse them, not allow them to get out
of balance.
In these areas of our life and in many others, we are gong to
be under attack. We are in a Giant Tug of War with Mr. Devil.
It’s OK to tell little lies, your wife will never find out.
Cheating in school doesn’t hurt anyone. You don’t need God, look
out for number 1. Church is for hypocrites—you’re a virgin—
everyone does it—a couple of pills won’t hurt at all—come on—
just one drink. “A Tug of War” The Good News is that we are not in this “Tug of War”
alone. Our God has said over and over—I am with you. It won’t
be easy, but no matter how dark it gets—you are not alone. I want
to be your partner!
In closing, I have one final and very important point to make.
What happens when we blow it, when we give into
temptations that get us into trouble, cause us to sin, leave us with a
lot of guilt?
Do we pretend like it’s no big deal? I hope not.
Do we beat ourselves up over and over again with tons of
unhealthy guilt? I hope not.
Or, do we take responsibility for our actions—stop blaming
other people, sincerely ask for forgiveness and healing and move
on trusting in a God of second chances? A God who says, start
over – try again. I hope so.
“I am not going away”, proclaims the Devil.
“I am with you always, through it all”, shouts the Lord of
Hope. “Don’t forget, we will win the battle together—Believe it!