As our annual Lenten 40 Day retreat begins, the words of St. Paul quickly focus the theme: Be reconciled to God. In light of this biblical message, we are invited to cut through the hubris of our day, to stand consciously, deliberately before God, asking that His Light, Christ, may illumine any darkness that we have embraced; patterns of thinking, behaviors, anything that is counter to His holy will for our personal life, and our common life together.
I know from recent years of talking to brother priests following Ash Wednesday, that this day sees perhaps the largest crowds in our churches of the liturgical year. Ash Wednesday rivals Christmas and Easter. This says something quite powerful about the recognition of many people of a need to ‘get right with God.’
As we hear the words of St. Paul again during our Lenten ‘kick-off’; Be reconciled to God, it seems somehow fitting to reflect upon these words in light of the values of the secular culture that surrounds us. In other words, to humbly, yet seriously review our own personal ‘beliefs’ and ‘values’ in light of the Gospel, and be honest about where any of my values and beliefs have been influenced more by the culture than by Christ.
Many today in our democratic society have been duped into thinking that the “truth” is no more than what the majority of the latest opinion polls define. The flaw in this thinking is easily revealed when we realize that over time, opinions change. Truth does not change. There are a number of present public issues that are under the pressure of “present thinking” that fly in the face of the eternal Truth of God, preached and lived by Jesus Christ.
For instance, many state legislatures around this country are following a popular trend, an ill-conceived notion that men and women, legislators, can define marriage. I ask you, who but God can do this? Who but God gave us marriage in the first place, and has given us clear guidance as to its roots, origins, practice, good and benefits, and gave clear teaching in regards to marriage through the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
This is just one example of what Lent is calling us to do this year. To be reconciled with God is a serious invitation to ask the Holy Spirit to illumine our way of thinking, and help us be honest about the flawed values at times promoted by our culture, and slowly, subtly eroding our willingness to live by the Gospel values.
As the cultural values erode our living the Gospel values, there necessarily follows an erosion of our relationship with Christ, and ultimately, with one another. Lent is a time to reawaken to Christ. It is a time to let Christ help us see with renewed vision of faith the proper and complete vision of the human person. Lent is a time for us to learn how to live more fully the dignity that is ours as a child of God, and to grow in our ability to respect that same dignity in every other human person, born and unborn.
Christ came into the world to reunite the one family of God. (Ephesians 1: 9-10 God’s hidden plan that he would bring everything together under Christ, as head) This is also the work of the Church. Let us be reconciled to God, that we may be reconciled with each other, that we may fulfill God’s will that we be one family, undivided, under God.
Finally, as God reveals in these next 40 days any discrepancies between our personal beliefs and the values of the Gospel, that may be present in us, I strongly encourage the Sacrament of Reconciliation. A serious desire and effort to reconcile with God must include sacramental grace, and in this case, sacramental reconciliation. I encourage, I pray, a good use of the Sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation may be a part of each of our Lenten journeys.
Good, fruitful ‘travels’ in your journey these next 40 days!