Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Lent: A Time to Deal with Your Foundation

(Ash Wednesday 2020: This homily was given on February 26, 2020 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Joel 2: 12-18; Psalm 51; 2 Corinthians 5: 20-6: 2; Matthew 6: 1-18.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Ash Wednesday 2020]

Many of you will recall that for several years here at St. Pius I gave you a theme-word on Ash Wednesday to guide you during the season of Lent.  One year the word was “perseverance,” another year it was “consistency,” another year it was “cross,” and one year, it was “foundation”.

Well, I’d like to propose that last one again, as the theme-word for this Lent—especially since in this season we’re beginning our “Dynamic Parish” experience here at St. Pius.

Lent is a time to deal with your foundation—your spiritual foundation.  It’s a time to put your foundation in place if it isn’t already there; and if it is already there it’s a time to examine it, and strengthen it and repair it, if necessary.

The foundation of a truly dynamic, Catholic, Christian life—according to Matthew Kelly, the author of the Dynamic Parish program is four-fold: It consists of prayer, study, generosity and evangelization.

This means that by the end of this Lent, you should have a regular routine of prayer, a habit of study, and a habit of charitable giving in place—and you should have made at least some effort to bring a family member or friend closer to Christ and his Church.

Prayer includes getting to Mass EVERY SUNDAY AND HOLY DAY—that’s a given.  In fact, if you receive ashes today and have no intention of coming to Mass regularly in the future, you are wasting your time!!!  These ashes are an empty sign for you.

But if you haven’t been coming to Mass every week and DO intend to start—beginning this Sunday—then these ashes are a MOST MEANINGFUL SIGN FOR YOU!

Prayer also includes confession (which is a prayer for forgiveness)—a prayer which always works provided we are truly sorry.

Prayer also includes having a regular, daily routine of prayer (and maybe making a holy hour at least once a week or so).  As Matthew Kelly puts it, “Dynamic Catholics have a daily commitment to prayer.”

Next, there’s study.  One reason many people leave the Catholic Church is that they don’t know what the Church teaches and why the Church teaches what she teaches—and so they are easily swayed by evangelical Protestants or Jehovah’s Witnesses who DO know what they believe!

So—when was the last time you read a book or watched a television program or listened to a talk that helped you grow in your knowledge and love of Jesus Christ and his Church?

Matthew Kelly says, “On average Dynamic Catholics spend fourteen minutes each day learning more about the faith. They see themselves as students of Jesus and his Church, and proactively make an effort to allow his teachings to form them.”

Kelly’s third quality of a Dynamic Catholic is GENEROSITY—which includes more than just donating money to good causes.  It also includes giving our precious time to others, and sharing our talents with our brothers and sisters in the community.  We tend to think of Lent as a time to “give things up”, but it’s also a time for us to “take things on”—to give more of ourselves in service to others.

And finally, evangelization.  One of the things every practicing Catholic should do during the season of Lent is to try to bring a friend or relative to Christ—or back to the Church and to the practice of their faith. 

One way you could do that is by inviting them to our parish mission, which will begin a week from this coming Sunday.  Matthew Kelly puts it this way: “Having seen how a vibrant spiritual life has transformed them and every aspect of their lives, highly engaged Catholics want others to experience the joy that flows from having a dynamic relationship with God.”

So there it is: the foundation of a dynamic Catholic, Christian life: prayer, study, generosity and evangelization.

If that foundation is not present in our life right now, then our task for the next 40 days is to get it there.

If it is already present then we need to examine it during the next 40 days—to see where it can be strengthened (and where it might need to be repaired).  In other words, we need to do our best to improve and grow in these 4 areas of our faith life, because what’s at stake in all this is our destiny—our ETERNAL DESTINY—and the eternal destiny of many of the people we love the most in this life.