Dearly Beloved in Christ,
IN the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - One true God, Amen.
Today we mark the mid-point in our Lenten journey toward Qyomtho (The Resurrection). Our journey may have been a very disciplined one. Some of us may have been less strict, but nevertheless have increased meaningful study, prayer, and/or charity. I hope we have developed a plan to continue the fruits of our Lenten practice in "ordinary time," creating new baselines for our daily lives. In so doing, I pray we may experience more of heaven on earth as we move our hearts and minds closer to His.
As Thirumeni has mentioned, Lent is a time of self discipline. A faithful person may look to the end of his travails, as an athlete, and visualize the prize before him. How wonderful the rewards of God! Though we may face tribulation, like a good Father God knows how to reward His children (cf. Matt 7:11, Luke 6:38).
Let me propose that Lent is not only a time of dividing and 'removing the rotten" from one's life. It is a season when we compel ourselves to introduce what is better. Jesus was moved by compassion to rebuke Satan and cast him from Abraham's children. He even mentions fasting (and prayer) as necessary to drive out (at least some) evil spirits (cf. Mark 9:29). But when evil is cast out, what is good must rush in to fill the void, otherwise the mind will return to patterns worse than before evil first left (cf. Matt 12:43-45).
So shall we endeavor to cling to a culture of good? Shall we actually go out and put clothes on needy backs, purchase food for the weary, and make disciples from the masses? Will we count to five before getting angry with our spouse or kids? Will we spend the 7 minutes it takes to do the evening prayer each night with our family? Shall we make durable peace with our enemies?
Furthermore, as we have the second half of Lent to go, have we thought about what we will produce for our parish? Quickly make a top ten list of needs for your parish. Can you fill 2 or 3 of them? Can you recruit others to fill the rest? What about the general needs of the church for art, music, books, strategies, etc.? By working in communion with your fellow Lenten traveler you will reinforce the purpose of this time - to be close to God and His people. Once you move close to Him, you have no other place to go but closer!
The scope of such activities is far more than 40-50 days. There is so much need in our church and our world. What you institute now should translate into what you practice later - enhancements and improvements courtesy of experience, priestly sheparding, and the grace of God.
Sustaining what you plant now is aided by two useful spades - Confession and Absolution (some will call this the Sacrament of Reconciliation). If you want to deeply experience spiritual power, you must be open and vulnerable. God can rush into an open heart! Let the competent priest hear what troubles you, receive a prescription for action, and be free of spiritual bondage in the name of the Lord! Repeat this process whenever you feel chained or sullied by the sinful nature of the world. Utilize this weapon far more than once a year, whenever you feel like the vision of your athlete's prize is obscured by muck and mire. As the old saying goes - "just do it!"
As you prepare for the second part of Lent, reopen your heart to miraculous living. In all that you do live and bring life to others. Add action to abstinence and prayer and be prepared to receiving more healing and blessing than you dreamed.
Pray for me and our parish in Austin! Fr. Zach Varghese, Assoc. Vicar, St. Thomas MSO Church, Austin, TX