February 29, 2020
by Eileen Burke-Sullivan
Creighton University's Division of Mission and Ministry
click here for photo and information about the writer

Saturday after Ash Wednesday
Lectionary: 222

Isaiah 58:9-14B
Psalms 86: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Luke 5:27-32

Praying Lent

Lent with All My Heart

The Invitation of Lent

Ash Wednesday and the following three days are introductory opportunities to engage the liturgical season carefully, even to “ease into” the whole forty-day period of Lent.  These early days are like musical themes that later are woven together in a great chorus or symphonic work, but first are sounded clearly and distinctly so that all can follow these threads in the tapestry of beautiful music that follows.  Each provides an opportunity to look deeply into the three verbs that identify the three “tools” of the life of partnership with Jesus: prayer, fasting and alms giving.  Prayer occurs when we are in right relationship with God, fasting rightly marks a healthy relationship with our own bodies and a just participation in the created order. Alms giving rightly understood stands as a marker for authentic relationship with all other humans.  “Alms giving” is the appropriate sharing of material goods so that all have enough of the limited resources of creation to thrive in their human life.

As we ponder the scripture texts from today’s liturgy in this year’s lectionary the wonderful first reading, taken from the Prophet Isaiah.  It speaks of following goodness, compassion, and the interior freedom of generous love in somewhat the manner that Pope Francis talks about following the path of consolations.  What the Tradition constantly reminds us about is that is a fundamental choice that humans must make and continue making every waking hour – the choice of life over death.  In every measure, being genuinely alive ourselves means that we support the life of community and the very created order.  To be genuinely ALIVE means to thrive.  Because everything in creation comes from God it is interrelated – so we can’t thrive by ourselves but only in union with all that is alive – on earth and in eternal life. So when we use whatever resources we have been given to enable others to thrive – we also choose to thrive (be utterly alive) ourselves. 

The choice for death (even while we are breathing in and out) is a choice of closing in on ourselves, destroying the world of life and hope around us, constantly disrupting and destroying relationships of care, consuming and wasting resources of nature for pleasure – this is the root of evil.  To choose death is to choose a perpetual living hatred and violence.  It presupposes that we are also trying to kill everyone and everything else in some false sense that we can’t thrive if we don’t have it all.  If anyone gets any part of creation to use, then those of us who live in a “zero sum economy” are afraid we won’t have enough.  There is never enough in this set of choices – because such destructive patterns not only harm enemies, but also our friends and us!

Isaiah, speaking as God’s mouthpiece, asserts that if we trust that God will provide enough, and generously share what we do have, if we are open handed and open hearted, all will be provided to be fully alive – this is following the consolation, which is God’s path of joy and peace, even amid difficult times.

Today’s Gospel from Luke reminds us that God’s work is rescuing each one of us from our death choices and opening us up to life choices again.  When we judge those, who frighten us, or refuse to embrace God’s mercy for them or for ourselves, we step off the path of life – and follow the desolation of the Dark Spirit or the enemy of human flourishing.   Jesus’ work, and ours since Baptism, is to open the doors of life within our own hearts to those who haven’t found the path to life.  As we have been invited to be forgiven, so must we invite others to forgiveness and the joy of God’s Mercy.

This season of emerging springtime of grace, that we call Lent –  is the time for us to think about all the gifts we have been given, and determine which of them Jesus is inviting us to use to share in his work of bringing God’s LIFE to all the created order by reconciling those in the dark to themselves, to their human community and to creation itself.  Follow the Consolation of God and discover the fullness of Lent as we move toward the celebration of Easter.

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