Saturday, March 8, 2014

2014/03/09 - First Sunday of Lent - "Different"

So – how’s your Lent going?  Have you figured out what you’re going to do to make this 40 days different than any other 40 days of the year?  
You know, it seems that a lot of people might not remember – or maybe were never told – why we fast and stuff during Lent… so let’s make sure all of us are on the same page.
Why do we do it?  Well – we’re Christians – and by definition, that means we are disciples of Jesus Christ.  To be a disciple of somebody means to take on the discipline of that person- in other words – our goal is to be like Jesus.  Think about that – if you were a disciple of Peyton Manning, you would look at everything he does… you’d want to do what he does…do the exercises he does... eat what he eats.  So, if we’re gonna be like Jesus – what exercise did he do?  He went on a forty day retreat in the desert.  What did HE eat?  Well, in today’s Gospel, he ate – well – NOTHING!  So if we really wanna be like him, we try to do the same!
Fortunately, the Church doesn’t ask us to give up food for 40 days – although some people really DO do it.  For the rest of us, the Church wants us to make this 40 days a time of fasting, but they don’t ask us to put our health at risk.  So what do we do?  Well, if you want the LEAST we can do, the Bishops outlined that for us.  We’re supposed to Fast and Give up meat on Ash Wednesday and every Friday during Lent.  That’s the minimum… the least we can do.  But most people go beyond that – and we SHOULD go beyond that unless our health could be jeopardized.  Most people give up something like sweets, cokes, alcohol… I remember one person who said they gave up Cake for Lent… so all they ate was pie.  Doesn’t quite seem to have understood what we’re trying to do.  See – all these little things that we give up are supposed to make every day of Lent different than the other days of the year.  For example, one of the things I’m trying this year is to reduce the amount of sugar I put in my tea and coffee.  It’s silly, I know – but every time I scoop sugar now, I remember – this is Lent – I’m offering this small sacrifice up to God so He can change me.
What good does it do?  Well – look what happened to Jesus in the desert.  He was tempted – but more importantly, he RESISTED temptation… did you notice how he did it?  With scripture.  Every word he spoke was from the Bible.  How do you think he learned that?  He had been forming himself his whole life.  He wasn't born KNOWING all of scripture... The bible tells us that he grew in wisdom... Which means he had to learn things. I can picture him and Mary sitting by the fireplace reading from the Torah – the Jewish Bible – and her drilling him on memorizing scriptures.  It was that persistent formation over time that gave Jesus the knowledge and the words to beat the Devil at his own game of words. 
So it is for us – we have to form ourselves.  We have to practice little ways of self-sacrifice so that when the real sacrifice comes, it just comes naturally to us to be selfless.  So – are you forming yourself?
Put it this way:  how is your faith life compared to a year ago?  5 years ago?  10 years?  I’d bet that more than one of us sitting here today might think – you know, I honestly don’t think my faith has grown a lick since I was confirmed.  
Why do you think that would be?  Because we stopped forming ourselves.  The moment we stop learning is when our faith starts dying.
So – let me make a suggestion – use this time in Lent to do something POSITIVE – you can still give  up your sweets – but in addition, do something to increase your understanding of your Faith.
Anybody here remember me talking about this book?  Anybody remember me saying how I’ve read it three times now and each time I am more PUMPED UP!?  I honestly believe that this book could be the game-changer for our parishes.  Matthew Kelly gives some very great insights and makes great suggestions on how every one of us – yes – EVERY one of us, can make just a small tweak in our lives to start making great strides towards Holiness.   If we could get everyone to read it – and especially if we could get everyone to start implementing the suggestions… we would change the world… REALLY!  I’m dead serious – if we all lived what this book suggests – we will have to build a bigger church.  No – I’m not kidding –and I’m not exaggerating.
I won’t ask for a show of hands – but I wonder how many people HAVE actually read the book?  If not, what is your excuse today?  Money?  I’ve got free copies for you at the door.  Time?  Yes – that’s a challenge for everybody… but…We all need to do SOMETHING during Lent – which means we might have to give up something.  How about giving up 30 minutes of TV or a half-hour of Facebook or your Xbox… THEN we can give God that time to change us through this book.  I really am sold on this book – and I BEG you to read it.  We also have book study groups meeting 4 times per week – see the information on the paper at the church entrance.
Finally – I want to talk to all of the youth – everybody age 5 through High School…show me your hands…  How many of you would like for me to give you $5?  
For the last four years, the first graders at Resurrection school in Evansville were given $5 by their teacher.  Their instructions were to “go make a difference”.  You may have seen the news over the last month just what a difference they made this year… it was incredible and inspiring.  Each child picked their own needy person or project and the results were AWESOME!
SO – our Grace Co-Op decided to do the same thing here!  YES – I am seriously offering to give $5 to anybody age 5 through high school.  Your job will be to find a worthy cause for the money before Easter.  At Resurrection school, the kids got their whole family involved did AMAZING things… in fact, they ended up raising like $4000 this year.  Now – it’s NOT about seeing how much money we can get.  The main purpose is to learn what God can teach us when we help someone else.
At the door, we have a table with pictures and news articles about the four years that Resurrection has done this – so you can get some ideas.  If you want to get in on this and get $5, Each youth should sign a contract.  The contract is simple – it says that you promise not to keep the money – and you promise to fill out a survey to tell your story about what you did with the money.  When you have filled out the contract, bring it to me, and I’ll give you the $5.
Then – on May 10th, after the Saturday night Mass, we will have a potluck meal and we’ll ask a few of the youth to share their stories.  I’m thinking that is going to be an awesome and inspiring evening.
So – sum it up.  We all need to do something special to make this Lenten time different than the rest of the year.  Yes – we still should give up something – but I also encourage you to do something positive each day.  Read a book, help someone, pray… you figure it out.  As we do what we promise to do – God will change us – he will make us different… then WE can go out into the world and make a difference.

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