I am so excited that we once again are in the season of Lent. One might ask why so excited, since Lent is a time of penance, sacrifice, and repentance – all things that one would not necessarily enjoy. I’m excited because of the rich Gospel messages that we encounter once again at Mass this time of year. The last sentence of today’s Gospel, from the Gospel of Luke (Luke 9: 25), is a prime example: “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?” Many folks, it seems, are intent on making money as the primary objective of their lives. Young men and women often ask themselves the question: “What career path would provide me the most money or the most lavish lifestyle?” According to Jesus, this is the wrong question! We should rather concentrate on our eternal salvation so that we don’t lose or forfeit ourselves on judgement day.
The message in the gospel at Monday’s Mass is similar. It is the story of the man who “had many possessions.” Jesus says that, in addition to keeping the commandments, the man should “sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:17-22). Jesus followed this up with this: “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:25). Nonetheless, Jesus then says, despite the impossibility for many to then be saved, “All things are possible for God.” (Mark 10:27). For me, the message is that it is okay to seek wealth, but don’t forget the less fortunate in the process and keep your mind focused on God.
We also have the message of humility in the Gospel for the Mass for yesterday, Ash Wednesday. In this Gospel (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)), Jesus talks about righteous deeds, almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them …” “When you give alms, don’t blow a trumpet before you … to win the praise of others.” “When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.” “But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your heavenly Father who is hidden.”
Lent is the time for repentance. In the Gospel for the Mass for this Saturday, Jesus said: “I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.” (Luke 5:32). My take is that Jesus is calling all sinners to repentance. Lent is the season for us to come to realize that we are all sinners and that Jesus is calling us. Form a picture in your mind of Jesus being nailed to the cross (see accompanying photograph). It is our sins that caused his agony. Let us be reconciled to God. Let us perform righteous deeds. Let us give alms. Let us pray. Let us fast. And let us be humble when we do these things. Others don’t have to know. Only God, who is hidden. Ah, yes, it is an exciting time of year.