The holy season of Lent begins this Wednesday. All over Washington, in federal offices, universities, hospitals, parks, everywhere you’ll spy Catholics walking around with ashes to mark their renewed work at self-denial and self-gift for the sake of Christ. The ashes are an odd thing to see, but often a very positive one. If nothing else, they’re a great conversation starter! People start talking about faith at work… shock of shocks! If you find yourself getting into such a water cooler conversation you might find the following reflection on this Sunday’s second reading a useful way of summing up the season for your fellow Washingtonians.
“Whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” The coming season of lent is about precisely this… it’s about our yearly pilgrimage, our yearly return to doing everything for the glory of God. But what is the glory of God… it’s a phrase we throw around alot, but what does it mean? St. Paul gives us some clues. The glory of God is about seeking not my good, but the good of the many. Self-gift for the sake of others. Hence, in a focused way during Lent, we follow the Lord’s command to give alms to the poor… as a symbol of the larger self-gift that characterizes all our acts of service, mercy, and kindness. Seek the benefit of the many that they may be saved. The glory of God always has a heavenly orientation. Our Father desires us to be with him in heaven, we need to turn our full selves, we need to convert (to turn) the whole orientation of our lives toward the next world. That’s why during Lent we follow the Lord’s command to fast and abstain from the good things of this world… to remind ourselves neither the pains nor the pleasures of this world matter compared to the good that we seek in heaven. Be imitators of me as I am of Chirst. Christ is the only man ever to go body and soul to heaven… and it is only by joining ourselves to him that we can hope to find heaven. Thus, be imitators of Christ… be Christian’s… Be “other Christs” in the world, for the world. This is why we follow the Lord’s Lenten command to pray… so that our hearts can speak and become one with the heart of the Son himself, Jesus Christ.
Do everything for the Glory of God – be a gift to others, turn toward heaven, be Christ for the world. Only one thing stands in the way of this – sin. We all sin… If we want to do everything for the glory of God, we need to get out from under our sins brothers and sisters… Ironically, sins are self-imposed weights around our necks, but we are incapable of letting go of them on our own… it takes a higher power to let us know that we are truly forgiven… that these sad choices are truly relegated to the past. If we want to do everything for the glory of God, we need to take advantage of the sacrament of Confession.
Brothers and sisters, Lent can be such a beautiful time of new beginning… It’s a time when we focus on the fact that our Father delights in us… and we do everything we can to free ourselves from this world’s cares in order to fully enjoy that delight. A pilgrimage through the desert, yes… but ultimately a pilgrimage toward paradise!