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Ash Wednesday (2)

Everyone in the military loves training.  That is a little bit of sarcasm.  But we know that we have to complete whatever mission is assigned to us so we have to stay in excellent shape.

We have an annual physical, an annual eye exam and we should go to the dentist to have our teeth cleaned.  Preventative health will keep us in great shape and could be the way that serious health issues are detected.

Daily PT keeps our heart working and our muscles in share and filled with muscle memory. 

We train with our equipment and of course, lest I forget all those power point training sessions.

Lent is like for us in the guard and reserves our annual training. Yet we all know there is the need for training throughout the year. We are supposed to keep Fridays as part of our physical training by abstaining or doing a work of mercy. Lent is a time of self-examination.  It is our field exercise.  We need to look at ourselves very carefully.

Our goal, our mission, is to reach heaven.  Not everyone goes to heaven.  Is there something or a number of things that may keep you from going to heaven?  Is there a sin, an inordinate attachment or an addiction that could prevent you from gaining eternal salvation?

Many disasters could have been prevented if the warning signs were not ignored.

If a particular bridge was inspected the way it should have been, perhaps it would not have collapsed during rush hour traffic.

Maybe many marriages could have been saved if there was proper examination, detection and resolution.

Maybe many priestly vocations could have been saved with proper formation and support.

Perhaps many of the terrible scandals in the Catholic Church could have been avoided if the signs and the reports were not ignored.

There is a pervasive and characteristic weakness within our modern culture – we don’t want to examine and resolve problems.  Do you remember the television series Hogan’s Heroes?  We are faced with the Shultz Syndrome.  – I see nothing.

Usually our sins, tendencies, attitudes and weaknesses will be easy to detect.  We know who we are and we know what we need to do.

The ashes on our forehead remind us of the human condition: Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

However, sometimes, you will have to go real deep and discover inner attitudes that may be the root of your sinful behavior.  Sometimes you will need a spiritual colonoscopy.

Lent is a Catholic colonoscopy.  We need to go deep into ourselves and look at ourselves very closely.

Here is a list of questions that will help you. 

Do you have a serious spiritual life?

Do you attend Mass every Sunday unless you are very sick?

Do you do unnecessary work on Sunday?

Do you practice the virtue of charity?  Are you patient and kind?  Are you generous with your time?  Do you serve others?  Do you help the sick and the poor?  Do you need to forgive someone?

Are you materialistic?  Do you live beyond your means?  Do you have a lot of unnecessary credit card debt?  If so, are working on eliminating your debt?  Do you support your parish financially the way that you should? We have a tendency to think it is a benefit that is provided.

Are you lazy?  Are you active in the apostolic life of the Catholic Church?  Do you study the Catholic Faith? When was the last time you took a class in the faith or read something spiritual or theological? Are you content with mediocrity? It is the lukewarm that are spit out of the mouth.  So many people think that Confirmation is the end of study.  It is the adult beginning.  Just think of the new issues that you have had to face especially morality in marriage and you are trying to get by with junior high school training.

If you are married, are you open to life? 

Do you go to Confession on a regular basis?  Do you receive Communion with a good conscience?

St Paul tells us today: Working together, then,
we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.  We are Church and we help each other become better persons.  You also have many grace filled opportunities like this Mass and in Lent the stations of the cross.  Not only be here but be involved.  It is like going to a banquet to smell the food.  Take advantage of all the graced opportunities through using them as part of your spiritual fitness.

On Ash Wednesday, the second reading from Saint Paul we hear these challenging words:  “Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the time of salvation (2 Corinthians 6: 2).

Let this Lent be an outstanding time of conversion and spiritual growth.


Ash Wednesday (1)

It makes one wonder: what is so special about getting dirt smudged on one’s face and being told that one is going to die that seems to be such an irresistible draw? Could it just be because it’s true!

In this “information age,” we have become accustomed to receiving all sorts information of which we have no real need and from which we derive no real benefit. So it may be increasingly hard for us even to imagine hearing something that really matters – let alone something that matters because it is true. In a world saturated with feel-good propaganda, partisan political ads,and outright lies, we’re finally hearing something that is true. It has to be one of the great examples of the church’s liturgical genius that it can take something so unattractive – but so true – as our inevitable return to dust, and ritualize it so popularly – and effectively – every Lent.

Lent is the church’s annual wake-up call to get reconnected and renewed. That’s what Lent is all about, because that’s what our life on earth must ultimately all about. One Ash Wednesday, I overheard someone explaining Lent to his friend as “a time to get connected with ourselves.” Well, Lent is most certainly a time to renew ourselves. But we do that by focusing not on ourselves, but on the big picture and where we hope to be in that picture – and on the only one who can get us from here to there. Lent is our annual opportunity to reconnect with Christ – Christ tempted in the desert and victorious on the cross, Christ descended among the dead and risen to new life, Christ living at the right hand of his Father and forever present among us in his church. Lent is our special time to allow him to make a real difference in our lives and to be transformed by that experience, because the kingdom of God really is at hand.