Posted by: matt25 | February 23, 2015

Christian Self Help, Ltd. Jesus Christ Founder & CEO

What follows is my homily for the 1st Sunday of Easter, Cycle B.  A homily is meant to be listened to rather than read but I have included a written version below that more or less tracks with the recording.  I do recommend reading the Scriptures which inspired it prior to listening.  You can find them here:

I hope you are blessed by listening.  Happy Lent!

Once upon a time there was a man who decided to go out into the dessert.

He thought to himself, I don’t really mind going into the desert because I won’t be able to eat much so I can lose some weight. Yeah that’s actually a good idea, that way I will look better in my bathing suit this summer.  I won’t be able to watch television in the desert, but that’s okay, I should really make better use of my time. I watch way too much TV and there is nothing good on anyway, that goes double for the time I waste on the computer. You know, I can probably think of good reasons on how to improve myself by giving other things up as well. This whole desert thing will be a nice 40 day self improvement program.
Do you know who that man was? That man’s name was Jesus, and he founded the company CHRISTIAN SELF HELP, Limited. And now you know…. The rest of the story!

Of course, that isn’t what happened at all, but sometimes that is what I seem to reduce my Lent to.  I decide to give some things up, or to do some extra things for Lent, which is a good thing to do, and the wisdom of our faith calls us to do it.  But what is in my heart? What is my motivation? I might, if I am honest with myself, answer that it’s really mixed bag of little something spiritual, with a healthy dose of self improvement thrown in. It works out that way because I am focused on a Lent that is about me and about how I can make myself into something better.

Maybe I should take a closer look at what the story of Jesus really is. His story is in all of today’s readings. In our reading from the 9th Chapter of Genesis, three times God says he has a covenant relationship with Noah and all his descendants, and with all living creatures. When Jesus became man he entered our side of that covenant.  As we sang our psalm the refrain was “Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.” Jesus is the Way & the embodiment of love & truth in keeping the covenant .  From Mark’s Gospel we hear that Jesus was driven into the desert and tempted by Satan. Then Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming: “This is the time of fulfillment. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” He went into the desert, not for self-improvement, but to be formed by God through victory over temptation and suffering. To be formed to do the Father’s will.  And From 1st Peter we heard how Jesus suffered his Passion and death so that he could lead us to God. To the God who gives us the sacrament of baptism which save us through power of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Let me try that story telling thing again, I promise it will be better!
Once upon a time God cleansed the entire earth and entered into an unbreakable covenant with humanity and all living creatures. In the time of fulfillment, the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us. He went to the desert to fast and pray to allow God to shape him to God’s purpose. He faced temptation and overcame it. He invited others to Repent, and believe in the Gospel. Never turning away from the covenant with his Father in heaven; he healed, and taught, and told his disciples what the kingdom of heaven is like. Always, giving of himself to others he finally gave all, and suffered death, death on a cross, in order to lead us to God. Through his passion, death, and resurrection we have the gift of baptism which saves us now. “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

In light of this “revised telling of the story of Jesus” how can I revise the story of my Lent?  Like Jesus I must choose to go pull away from the normal bustle of life, go into a desert of sorts, because I am in a covenant of love with God.  Following Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life, I will seek to embody love & truth.  As Jesus did, I must confront the temptations which call me to a self-serving life rather than a life the life God created me to live. By the saving grace of my baptism, and the other sacraments I must achieve victory over them. I can’t do this, but God can.

The three pillars of Lent that we are invited to embrace are fasting, almsgiving, and prayer. I could rethink the three pillars of Lent as statements of action ad reason:
Fasting; I remove some of the things of this world to make room for heaven to grow in me.
Almsgiving; I do good works, or give of my time or money; for the sake of others and as a tool of God’s mercy.
Prayer; I spend time praising, thanking, and listening to God; because God is in a covenant of love with me.

Jesus’ story is our story.
Here at the beginning of Lent, let’s go to the desert to fast and pray to allow God to shape us according to God’s purpose rather than our own. Let us keep the covenant and open ourselves to truth and love. Through the power of our baptism let us draw others to God and the Good News of the Easter we are preparing to live.

Finally I think I may need a little reminder everyday of how I want the story of my Lenten experience to unfold, so I think I will sing a little each morning as a way to remember.

Day by day, Day by day
Oh Dear Lord, Three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly
Day by day


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