March 5, 2014 – Year A
Readings: Jl 2:12-18, Psalm 51, 2 Cor 5:20-6:2, Mt 6:1-6, 16-18
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
We begin today the 40-day season of Lent; a time of prayer, fasting, abstinence, self-denial and going the extra mile in doing something for God and for our neighbors. Some of you were already here this morning for the giving of ashes. Still, we come back tonight because we cannot pray enough, as we all know.
We can always spend more time with our Lord. In the sacred scriptures, we notice that before our Lord God sends his people to do something for him, or his chosen leader to start a certain mission, he lets them spend 40 days in preparation for their important mission; to have enough strength for the trials that may come their way. You may remember that Moses spent 40 days in Mt. Sinai. He has to leave his family, his loved ones, for 40 days to be in close communion with God. And those 40 days have given him the strength to be able to proclaim God’s message, in spite of the fact that he couldn’t be understood by his closest friends and relatives.
David was transformed with the 40-day challenge of Goliath, and he was never the same again. The people of Ninevah were given 40 days to repent and they did, or you could say they tried. After those 40 days, they were strengthened by their repentance and by their prayers. Even our Lord Jesus himself spent 40 days and 40 nights in the desert before he started his 3 years of public ministry in proclaiming God’s good news of salvation, and not only teaching them as to who he is, but teaching them what we should do and of course not do, as God’s children. After his resurrection from the dead, he spent 40 days with his disciples before he ascended into heaven. Those 40 days definitely strengthened their faith. Those 40 days that they were in the company of the risen Christ gave them courage to be able to face all the trials after our Lord’s ascension into Heaven.
And so every year we are given by our Holy Mother Church these 40 days of the season of Lent to once again take a closer look at ourselves, as to who we are, and as to whose we are. We are not ordinary mortals. We are not just flesh and blood. We are temples of the Holy Spirit.
Last year, the online version of the Oxford Dictionary chose the word “selfie” as the International Word of the Year 2013. “Selfie” has been used 17,000% more than the previous year – 2012. So because of millions of users of this word, and of course, we see everyone taking pictures of themselves. Even when I was in Rome about 6 years ago, tourists used to ask people to take their pictures for them. Not anymore. They are using their cell phones and taking their own pictures. Of course, the word selfie was first used in 2002 in Australia. They are used to putting ‘ie’ at the end of certain words. Barbecue is called “barbie”. That’s not uncommon for them to use “selfie.”
During the season of Lent, we are asked by Holy Mother church to take “selfies” of our spiritual life. We are not focusing on the witness and sins of others. When we receive ashes tonight, we will not be told that, “Remember your next door neighbor is dust, and unto dust he or she will return.” No, we will not be listening to those kinds of words. We will be told, “Remember YOU are dust and unto dust YOU will return.” That is for us. Also, we are looking at our own self, not in our own eyes or in the eyes of our closest friend, but in the eyes of God. Because in the presence of the light of the world, we can see who we really are. This will give us strength; this will give us encouragement.
The season of Lent, which is the season of repentance, we are undergoing a period of spiritual cleansing to cleanse ourselves so God will be able to dwell in our souls. And if God is with us, as St. Paul said, “Who can be against us?” He is the light. And if there is light in us, there will be no darkness. And God is also the source of joy. If there is joy, there will be no sadness. Just like light and darkness cannot go together, joy and sadness cannot go together. During the season of Lent, we may have the color purple – this is a sorrowful color, a color of repentance – but Lent is always a season of Joy. Lent is the ancient word for Spring. Springtime is always a season of joy. Last Sunday, we were being given a winter storm warning when it was 74 degrees outside. Storm? What were they talking about? Everybody was enjoying 74 degrees. But we all know that weather changes. People change also. But the good news is God never changes. He is the same God yesterday, today and forever. He is the same God, who is in our midst, listening to our prayers. He is the same God who will be in our company in this 40 day season of Lent. He is the same God who is asking us to be in close communion with him. He will always be there, and he is actually not only with us, he is within us.