Journeying into God’s Merciful Love — Lent 2016

Week of February 7, 2016

On Wednesday Lent begins.  We take a step into a season that is marked with ashes and steeped in tradition. It is a time of self-reflection and a time of forgiving grace.  Each year we are invited to do our part to prepare.  Each year we are invited to be compelled to finish Lent with the same resolution and energy we began.   At different times in my life I have begun the project of becoming a healthier person, to lose weight and get in shape.  I usually dust off an old exercise tape that I have used in the past, look at the calendar and plot out a strategy that will get me to where I want to go.  Usually everything is great until I begin to make up excuses.  I am good until something gets in the way.  Sometimes this is in the second week or third.  Sometimes this occurs on the second day. 
Our goal for Lent is to finish in Holy Week with the same determination that we began on Ash Wednesday and to allow that which we chose to give up or add to our priorities will draw us deeper to the Lord.  Everything we do for Lent is to have that goal as its end.  How does this draw us closer to the Lord?  For example, what if we invite the children to limit Face Time or electronics for Lent.  This could be a great thing.  How does this draw them closer to Christ?  Well, in the time spent electronically disconnected, they can focus on the real, live people in their homes and lift them up by complimenting their siblings or parents.  They can take that time and spend it doing something else that connects them in real time to forgiving, cherishing, and lifting up others.  The time to dwell on this allows them to be in the moment.  The same can happen with music.  For every hour we pump up the volume, an equal amount of time can be spent reading Scripture or listening to Christian contemporary music.  These subtle changes can replace the routines that allow us to remain on the plateau that we call normal. 
This year we as a parish are invited to journey into God’s merciful love.  We are to carve out time that brings us to God’s mercy.  It is an opportunity which tells us His forgiveness endures forever.  To experience this love we must admit to who we are.  We are a people in need of forgiveness.  To journey is to not remain in the same place.  We have to move from what is comfortable to what is uncomfortable.  (For me to be uncomfortable means I just have to try on old clothes from two years ago.)  Seriously, we have to realize that it is in being uncomfortable that we are enabled to look clearly at ourselves.  Lastly, all that we do must lead us to an awareness of God’s mercy and love.  It is what Jesus did on the cross.
May our journey find us rejoicing in God’s merciful love.

Rev. John J. Ouper