Here is the homily I preached on Ash Wednesday for your reflection and prayer as we begin the Holy Season of Lent through Desert Detours to Garden Gladness at Easter Time.
On February 2, which was the halfway point in the season of winter, Groundhog Phil of Pennsylvania saw his shadow and announced that more winter is in store for all of us. We know that the gray, bitterly cold, and snowy days of winter do take a toll on some people, certainly our homeless sisters and brothers. Let us remember to pray for them!
There is a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder that afflicts some people during the season of winter. The lack of light due to the shortness of the day can bring about spells of depression. In addition to counseling and maybe medication, a main form of treatment is phototherapy. The person struggling places herself or himself in front of a light box that emits 10,000 lux of fluorescent light, which is about 20 times brighter than normal indoor lighting and mimics sunlight.
A dose of about thirty minutes right after waking up in the morning can be helpful as a treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder.
I suggest this to you as an image as we begin together the observance of the Holy Season of Lent. Lent, which coincides with the coming of spring, is about absorbing the light of the Lord’s love and reflecting that light to others. Let me say that again. Lent is about absorbing the light of the Lord’s love and reflecting that light to others.
The first step in this process of awakening to the light of the Lord’s love for you and me is to open our hearts to the Lord. People can preach to me until they are blue in the face, but if I don’t open my heart to Jesus none of that amounts to a hill of beans. During Lent, you and I place our lives into the Lord’s hands. We do it deliberately, praying, “Lord, help me to open my heart wider to you. Help me to place the darkness that is in my life in front of your marvelous light.”
What is the darkness in your life? What trips you up on the journey of life? What are you feeling guilty or ashamed about? What do you want the Lord to change in your life? What is the quality of your relationships with the Lord and with the people in your life?
Lent is about change. Change is a straightforward word for conversion. Conversion is more than repentance of our sins. Conversion radically changes our lives around – pointing us back into the direction of the Lord’s gaze. It is hard for the Lord to gaze upon us with merciful love if we are walking away from him. The practices of Lent help us to change.
We pray more during Lent, not to change the Lord, but to let the Lord change us. How will you pray during Lent? How will you include the Sunday Mass during Lent into your schedule either in person or via livestream? Will you open your Bible more often during Lent?
We fast during Lent to rid ourselves of the things that clutter up our lives and make it hard for the Lord to find room in our hearts. What do you need to let go of? How will you spring clean your heart to prepare for Holy Week and Easter?
We share our blessings with others through acts of kindness, small and large, through our almsgiving, so that we may become more grateful and generous. The most joyful people in the world are people who give of themselves to others. How will I be more grateful and generous during Lent?
Prayer, fasting, and works of charity, these are the Lenten exercises that open our hearts wider to the Lord’s magnificent love.
This Lent, let us open our hearts to the Lord!
Let us absorb the light of Jesus’ love!
Filled with Jesus’ love, let us reflect this light of Jesus’ love to others!
Father Bill +