The Holy Season of Lent Fast and Abstinence. It is a traditional doctrine of Christian spirituality that a constituent part of repentance, of turning away from sin and back to...
coming up! In view of this, what a powerful focus we are given for the coming week in this SUNDAY’S PSALM [62 or 63]. The first line of the opening stanza proclaims “in God alone is my soul at rest.” Accept this fact as a personal response to the closing words of this SUNDAY’S OLD TESTAMENT EXTRACT [ISAIAH 49: 14 – 15]: “I will not forget you.” Once you have accepted the fact and made your personal response, anchor yourselves in Jesus’ words taken from TODAY’S GOSPEL [MATTHEW 6: 24 – 34]: “do not be anxious about your life … seek first his kingdom …“
IN GOD ALONE IS MY SOUL AT REST.
I WILL NOT FORGET YOU.
DO NOT BE ANXIOUS …. SEEK FIRST HIS KINGDOM
By the time this Eighth Sunday arrives we should be both ready and willing to face Ash Wednesday and integrate ourselves into the Lenten Season which we should not attempt to ‘do’ alone – that would be a recipe for disaster!
No-good running around like headless chickens trying to make up our minds about what we will do or not do for Lent, making resolutions for all sorts of penitential or ‘spiritual’ gymnastics. Yes! A few penitential activities are helpful, and a weekly ‘extra’ in the way of a liturgical exercise will help to keep us properly and positively focussed on the Lord – as well as refining our awareness on those less fortunate than ourselves – but the activities must never become the focus of Lent. Rather they must strengthen and clarify the focus on the One who suffered and became the Resurrected Christ.
Lent is not a time for headless chickens running around in confusion. It must be a time in which each one finds a place that will honour our past without compromising our future. Our Lenten participation and efforts must always point us to the FUTURE – and this will not happen if all we are focussed on are the ‘penances’ undertaken to make ourselves ‘better’ disciples. Our activities must also strengthen our experiences of the past which have been good, productive and successful. We all need to know that we have ‘done it’ in the past and so are, indeed, able to ‘do it’ in the future.
So we return to the three phrases from this Sunday’s scriptures which have already been emphasised.
Firstly, in God alone is my soul at rest! This is the one and only foundation to our endeavour of finding a place. There are skills that come with stillness, and we have largely lost them. If the one and only Lenten penance or exercise we choose is to courageously MAKE
(NOT FIND!) a specific time each day in which we will BE STILL, then our journey through those weeks will be enormously successful. I am not thinking about an hour. We could start with 15-minutes – this time without any books (not even the scriptures), rosaries, or devotions. The only thing which may well be useful – but not essential or obligatory – is a lighted candle. Then, BE STILL WITH THE LORD. Merely be there. Give HIM this time. This may, for many, be challenging – but ‘penances’ are supposed to challenge us, otherwise they are useless. You will develop skills which will assist you in finding yourself in relationship to him, locating a place that is honourable and does not compromise your future.
Secondly, I will not forget you. The Lord has not lost any
skills – and has no need to develop any. He has it all – down to a fine art! As today’s Gospel reading informs us the Father knows all that we need – and will provide …. “you of little faith.” One of the skills we develop when giving him time is the almost sudden realisation and acceptance that he has not forgotten us, is with us, knows our needs and provides – IN HIS WAY AND TIME. As this SUNDAY’S NEW TESTAMENT EXTRACT [1 CORINTHIANS 4: 1 – 5] tells us, he “brings to light the things now hidden …. and discloses the purposes of the heart.” In this reading, Paul also refers to the “mysteries of God.” These mysteries are an integral part of the place we all need to discover, as we begin to honour our pasts and assure our futures.
Finally, do not be anxious … seek first his kingdom. Anxiousness is a symptom of fear – and fear, as Pope Francis reminds us, “is not in the vocabulary of the disciple.” The development of set and regular times of stillness helps us to establish priorities – – seek first! Once the order of priorities is clearly established, anxiousness begins to evaporate.
Go back to the second stanza of today’s Psalm:
for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock, my salvation, my fortress;
never shall I falter.