How often does Lent feel like a sacrifice – a burden? While sacrifice is a core practice in our ‘return to God’, we must keep our focus on the goal, which is new life – Easter!
Why is it so hard to give up the practices of our life that we already know keep us feeling bad about ourself, distant from one another, living an unsatisfactory life? These are precisely the things the Lord comes to free us from.
Today’s Gospel (Luke 5:27-32) tells the story of Jesus calling Matthew (Levi) to follow him and leave behind his work as a tax collector. We learn that he left everything behind and followed Jesus.
Later, Jesus is questioned about spending so much time with tax collectors and known sinners, to which he responds: “I have not come to call the righteous to repentance, but sinners.” I love this image of Jesus coming to us as sinners! Thus, we have the hope of finding the One we seek, because He is searching for us – indeed – has already come to us!
The Prophet Isaiah also provides powerful and positive encouragement as we begin our Lenten practice of repentance. While the process of ‘conversion’ is challenging, never lose sight of the goal!
Thus says the Lord: If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday; Then the Lord will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land. He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails.
This Lent, as we return to God, we acknowledge our need for a power beyond our own, to free us from darkness and sin. We sense that we are created for ‘something more’ than we seem capable of discovering or establishing on our own. We long to live in ‘harmony’ with God, one another and all of God’s creation.
St. Irenaeus tells us the key to unlock this mystery of what we seek is the person of Jesus. “Friendship with God brings the gift of immortality to those who accept it.” Jesus, who called Matthew, also calls us. In calling us, Jesus also calls us friends.
This Lent, may we enjoy the friendship of Jesus, who makes known to us, all he has learned from his Father! (John 15:15)0