Today is a day normally reserved for pranks and practical jokes amongst friends. I admit I enjoy April first with the best of practical jokers, but this year I’m not so much in the mood for practical jokes. I wish this entire Coronavirus (COVID19) thing was a practical joke. Alas, it is real, so we must make the most of the challenges for God’s glory.
2020 Great Lenten Journey
In our effort to reduce our anxiety this week, I invite you to consider Who it is that you are on this journey to please? As Orthodox Christians, we spend most of our time talking about defeating pride, and loving others as ourselves, but Who are you doing this for? Is it for your children, your spouse, your friend? You might think I believe you should be on this journey for yourself, but you would be wrong.
I tend to be a “news junky” ever since the days following 9/11 which ushered in the height of the 24-hour news cycle. I recall very vividly the first night, being glued to the TV news, wondering and waiting for what was (I presumed) bound to come next. Nothing ever came, thank God, and I eventually turned off the TV, going to bed. I didn’t go to sleep, but I did go to bed. My mind couldn’t turn off, after so many hours of watching, and re-watching the tragedy of that day. I’ve been feeling very similar lately.
Today my sermon was focused on the Gospel reading. Since you will be able to watch or read the sermon later when it is produced, I decided today’s Daily Lenten Journey would feature the Epistle Reading from Hebrews. Another Sunday, another day with empty Churches, continues to create anxiety on the people of God. When will this virus subside? When will God make everything better?
One of the more popular expressions among what you might call mainline Christians is, “God put on my heart…” or some version of understanding that God was speaking to them. Some even use the phrase, “God told me…” I rarely hear such an expression among Orthodox Christians, but does that mean God isn’t speaking to us? Maybe it means He is, but we’re not listening.
I’ve been a priest for thirteen years, a clergyman for fifteen, and worked for the Church for nearly twenty-seven years. In all my years in Church work, one common frustration I hear is, “I don’t have enough time to pray like the Church wants.” During Great Lent, the Church invites us to get more intense in our spiritual struggle. We are asked to go to Church more, say our prayers more, fast more, and help other people more. Then I realized today, this year we have been presented with the ideal opportunity to take the Church up on her offer.
As promised, this week we are focusing on hope for our Daily Lenten Journey during this health crisis. I don’t mind admitting, I didn’t turn the news on even once yesterday, and already I’m feeling more at peace. I’m not suggesting living in ignorance. I’m quite aware of the severity of the situation, but I just needed the day off from the news. I’ll get caught up today. In meantime, I’m focusing on hope.
Today we begin the third week of our Great Lenten Journey, first having remembered venerating (even if virtually from our computer screens) the Holy Cross yesterday. With the memory of the struggle of the cross that waits our entire Christian life, today the Church reminds us of the hope that God has promised.