As we begin our 2021 Great Lenten Journey today with Clean Monday, I am always reminded (and refreshed) by the repetitive nature of the Church calendar. We are not the same people we were last year, especially considering the global pandemic, so this year our Daily Lenten Journey will focus on how we have grown, if we have grown, and where we are headed in our spiritual life. Let's get fasting!
On Judgment Sunday, the third Sunday of the Triodion, the Church reminds us how God will judge us in the end. As described in Matthew 25.31-46, the judgement will focus on how we view others. Do we look at others the way God wants us to look at others, or do we look at others with self-righteousness? The goats, those in hell, were shocked to find themselves in hell, not because they did something bad, but because they could not look at others with the same eyes that God does. They failed to understand what it means to love God and others. Life is not about earning our way into heaven.
The Second Sunday of the Triodion, known as the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, calls each of us to reflect upon our situation in life and experience the self-realization that we are not where God wants us to be. Then the Church invites us to deep and profound repentance to return our life to God, so that He can restore us to our original glory.
As the period known as the Triodion begins, marking the beginning of the ten-week journey to Pascha, the Church reminds us that we should not spend our life justifying ourselves to ourselves. In order to be justified by God, we must humbly accept that we are sinners and that we are no better than anyone else. There will always be someone following the rules better than us. If we can embrace this truth, the journey to Pascha will be a blessing to us.
In the story of the Canaanite Woman in Matthew 15.21-28, heard both in the Holy Unction service and the Seventeenth Sunday of Matthew, is more for our healing than for her daughter. Christ, knowing her deep faith and humility, allows us to witness her devotion in the face of her pain and suffering. Her begging not for herself but for her daughter, combined with her willingness to accept whatever crumbs Christ would offer her, should be a lesson to us.
Nobody ever likes to hear about money in Church, but when the Gospel boldly speaks about money, as it does in Matthew 25.14-31, we cannot ignore the relationship that money has with our salvation. According to the Parable of the Talents, how we use (or do not use) the money which God has given to us, will be used when we are judged in the Kingdom of Heaven. We each have been given resources according to our ability, not to hide it but to use it to glorify God.
When we prepare our home for an important visitor, we spend time and effort preparing the house. We clean the house and cook and make sure everything is just right for the important visitor. When it comes to welcoming Christ into our soul, what are we doing to prepare for His visit? Do we clean our soul? Do we prepare our heart? In the story of Zacchaeus, because he knew Christ was approaching, he went out of his way to get ready to see Him.
One day a blind man was begging by the side of the road when Jesus passed by. After inquiring about the commotion, the man knew this was his day to be healed by God. He understood that he may never had another chance to interact with God, so he called out “Son of David, have mercy on me!” He wasn’t about to let the change pass by, so he insisted, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Because the man took advantage of the chance he had with God, he was healed and live a new life continually glorifying God. We have the same chance today, and every day we come to Church.
On the Sunday before Epiphany each year, the Church recalls the opening verses of the Gospel According to St Mark, “The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ…” (Mark 1.1) which recalls St John the Baptist’s invitation for us to a life of repentance. Repentance is a word that recalls the imagery of returning to the beginning, where it all began. Repentance is a word that means to change the way with think and look at life.
Choose to fight on God’s Side As the Gospel teaches us, just moments after Christ was born, the world turned against Him. King Herod killed thousands of innocent children in his attempt to kill Christ. Throughout history the world and the Devil has been at war with God, and we are caught in the middle. Although, living in America we do not fully understand what it means to live in persecution, hearing the Gospel stories of persecution and watching the nightly news coverage of persecuted Christians gives us a glimpse of what it means to fight on the side of God in this war.