HOMILY for 1st Sunday of Lent B
Sunday 22nd February 2015
As we are now in the world of instant messaging, you will not be surprised that the word that caught my eye from the Ash Wednesday readings was that one word “NOW” (Joel 2:12-17) We heard it again in the 2nd reading too, “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor 6:1-2) It reminded me of how important it is to use the text message or the email whenever we can to send support and prayer to those who need it. It is so easy to say to oneself that I will get in touch tomorrow instead of doing it today. Or to say to oneself that I will pray for so and so next time I say my prayers, rather than actually to start praying for them straightway. This approach to prayer is so important. For our prayer must not just be time set aside for our prayers, but something we do as we live – on the bus or the train, in the kitchen or the office. Wherever we are we can and should pray. We should use the moment something or someone comes to mind and not leave it till later.
Making resolutions about something we might do later is rarely a good idea. It reminds me of New Years Resolutions, and Lenten Resolutions are much the same. As a regular swimmer I look at those people who arrive in the Pool every January clearly filled with the Resolution they have made to swim every morning. Every year it is the same. By the end of January most of them have disappeared, as we regulars knew they would, and of course we sigh and think ourselves so superior!!
So I would advise you against making lots of plans for Lent about giving up this and that, or taking some things on. It is always a mistake to set ourselves on the course for failure rather than choosing one thing that we can do now whatever that may be. So remember to send that text message or email straightaway and let someone know now that you are praying for them. Never say “I will pray for you”. Always say “I am praying for you now”.
It is the same message that we get from Jesus when he tells us not to worry about tomorrow’s troubles, but just to get on with what we have to face today. (Matt 6:30-34) Living for today, living for now is such an important thing to do. Indeed it is at the heart of what the word “Repent” means. Repentance does not mean building up in ourselves a list of things we feel sorry about. It means turning to God now. For if we spend time creating a list of things that we should feel sorry about we are in danger of being obsessed with ourselves rather than recognising our need for God. That is what St Paul is talking about when he says “Now is the day of salvation”. He has just said “Be reconciled with God” and then he makes it clear. Do it now.
This is what receiving the ashes on our heads on Ash Wednesday is all about. We are told to remember that we are but dust and ashes. The priest says “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return” and we are reminded that we may die tomorrow so we had better get in with doing things now rather than leaving them till it is too late. So away with lots of Resolutions for Lent. Let us rather decide to do live every day for God, and discover each day what we might do now to serve him.