We all know how Chuck-E-Cheese works: you play games, earn tickets, and then, at the end of your time, use those tickets to redeem a prize. It's a fun place, but hopefully the concept is not something we maintain in our spiritual lives. That is, hopefully we don't see our spiritual endeavors as simply means to an end.
During this season of Lent, the Church proposes to us three special devotions: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. These are like the games at Chuck-E-Cheese. The temptation is to "do" these "things"—or anything in our faith lives, i.e., going to Mass, Confession, etc.—so we can get enough tickets to get to heaven. What a strenuous proposition! Does that mean if we eat a chicken McNugget on Friday we go to Hell?
No, this should not be our approach to the spiritual practices the Church proposes to us. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are good and meaningful in themselves.
For these forty days, when we pray something occurs mystically. Our soul is strengthened as we are united to Jesus. We transform into Jesus. Prayer is meaningful in and of itself.
When we fast, we enter mystically into the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert. We are taught that our strength comes not from food or any other man-made thing, but God alone. Fasting is meaningful in and of itself.
When we put money in the collection basket or make a donation to the parish or school, we are entering into Christ's self-offering. Almsgiving is meaningful in and of itself.
So, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving aren't just about earning points to get to heaven. They're meaningful in themselves. They make our life now meaningful and fulfilling. So, please consider what you are doing for Lent. Don't worry if you already forgot or violated your Lenten observance. Tomorrow is a new day.
If you need some ideas, quiet prayer for twenty minutes a day is one possibility. Daily Mass is another. Perhaps you could consider doing a half hour or an hour in the Church here on Friday when we have Eucharistic Adoration; or attend Stations of the Cross at 6pm here Fridays. Yes, your reward will be great in heaven, but I think you'll find the experience itself meaningful as well.
We have begun the interview process for the Director of Music position here at St. Juliana. I will do my best to keep you informed along the way. I'm grateful to the members of the search committee: Steve Baggio, Diane Damert, Jim Gregie, Catherine Keating, Margie Marshall, Fiona Nolan, David Plier, Margie Shiel, and Theresa Simonetti.
There will be no Tuesday Theology Talk this week, as I have another speaking engagement that evening. We will resume next week, February 27th, with a discussion on our parish book selections: Resisting Happiness, Jesus Shock!, and Broken Mary.
On Wednesday I will speak to the 7th grade RE students on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. That same Wednesday night at 7pm is an Athletic Board meeting.
I look forward to seeing many of you at the St. Juliana St. Patrick's Day Party on Saturday, February 24th. It's a great event with great music and food. I've given up alcohol for Lent, so unfortunately no Guinness for me!
Yours in Christ,