Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Church as an Opportunity Rather than an Obligation

With the coming of Great Lent in February, it brings along with it, the sense of obligation to God and His Church. During the weeks of Great Lent, the Church invites us to increase our daily prayer, increase our fasting, increase our reading of the Holy Scriptures, increase our assistance to the poor, and increase our participation in the Divine Services of our Church. To assist us in responding to these invitations, the Church provides us with daily fasting guidelines, daily Scripture readings, daily Lenten prayers for the home, and additional, almost daily services in the Church.

All this increased spiritual involvement is supposed to draw us closer to God, but oftentimes the actual result is that we are pushed further from God. We end up at the end of Great Lent, after weeks of hearing the Church invite us to “dig deeper into our souls” and discover the great love that God has for us, feeling exhausted rather than refreshed. We feel limited by the Church rather than free. We feel as if the Church has beaten us down rather than lifted us up. Why do we feel this way?

After twenty centuries of guiding her faithful through Great Lent, the Church’s way of life has been met with a sense of obligation rather than opportunity. The way of life of the Church has been seen by most as forced upon the people rather than welcomed by them, and the result has been for most faithful to reject the way of life of the Church. We choose freedom rather than obligation.

You will hear many faithful complain that the Church expects too much of her people, but in reality the Church INVITES her faithful to the journey that is Great Lent. You will hear many faithful complain that the Church limits our life too much during Great Lent, when in reality the Church FREES us from the slavery of the flesh and worldly passions. You will hear many faithful complain they “have” to go to Church, when in reality attending the Divine Services FREELY is the only genuine worship of God. You will hear many of the faithful speak of obligation to the Church, when in reality the entire way of life of the Church is an OPPORTUNITY to draw closer to God.

Fasting is an OPPORTUNITY to rededicate your entire body to God.
Reading the Holy Scriptures is an OPPORTUNITY to hear God speaking to your heart.
Prayer is an OPPORTUNITY for you to speak to God.
Helping the poor is an OPPORTUNITY to share the love you have for God with others.
Attending Divine Services is an OPPORTUNITY to leave the world behind and enter Heaven.
Great Lent is an OPPORTUNITY rather than an obligation.

I invite you to welcome the OPPORTUNITY of Great Lent this year and draw closer to God. You might even thank me for it later.

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