February 14, 2018
(Ash Wednesday; Ss. Cyril, Monk and Methodius, Bishop;
and St. Valentine‘s Day)
Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. Jl_2:12-18
If you follow the news much lately, you would have heard the stories about a volcano in the Philippines oozing its fiery lava down upon the neighboring villages. And how the authorities have warned the inhabitants, that at any moment the entire mountain could explode.
You would have heard stories about terrorist groups causing mayhem and death, not only in their own countries, but all over the world.
You would have heard about a political tightrope that we ourselves are walking with countries who threaten us with nuclear annihilation.
And you would have seen people, from their youth to old age, dying from cancer, malnutrition and disease.
It’s all a stark reminder of the fragility of life and the uncertainty of death. Of course, none of us are strangers to death. But how often do we purposely ignore it, as though it would never happen to us! And the question is, when it does happen, “Will we be prepared to take our best – first step into the next phase of life?
You see, just as the Olympic skier needs Discipline to be able to perform at their very best in the actual event, so too, we need Discipline in our quest for Eternal Life with God.
And if that skier truly wants to win his or her event, he’s going to do two things: He’s going to follow his trainer’s directions to the letter, and he going to practice relentlessly.
And it’s no different for us. As we begin our 2018, Lenten journey to the Cross, the Tomb and the Resurrected Life of Jesus, we remind ourselves of our own need to trim up some of our sinful habits through the discipline of both our bodies and our souls.
And that can be done in many ways. Jesus, our trainer, gives us three acts of discipline that can help us on this journey. They are Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving.
And He tells us, that their purpose is not self-gratification. It’s not for our own glory, but it’s done for the Glory of God.
You see the discipline of breaking bad habits never comes easy. We have to die a little to our selfishness to live a lot for God’s Glory.
The discipline of Fasting tests our will and strengthens our perseverance, so that when the true test of our faith comes, we will have the strength to endure and overcome all the negatives in our world.
Prayer brings us closer to God and to our neighbor. When we can self-less-ly pray for the well-being of others, then we are truly learning the discipline of Love; that most important Commandment of Jesus.
And Almsgiving is the life-blood of our faith. Although, literally, it means – the giving of money or food to the poor, we also give the Alms of our time, our effort, our caring and our love in order to help enhance the lives of others, both physically and spiritually.
It’s through Almsgiving that we help to build and sustain the Body of Christ here on earth, as we Discipline ourselves not to live in fear of death, but instead, to just BE the very best disciples we can, as we enter into God’s kingdom of LIFE, now and forever.
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