February 19th, 2021

The Gospel according to Matthew (9:14-15)

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

Opening Prayer: Lord, I come to you today to pray for the whole world. I want my Lenten efforts to help bring grace to my family, the Church, and our country. Help me to have a positive spirit that offers sacrifice joyfully.

Encountering Christ: Welcome to Lent! How are the first few days shaping up for you? Have you decided what you are going to do with your forty days of Lent? Is it to give up something you like to do or eat OR are you thinking about what you are going to do in order to stretch yourself and ultimately find a deeper encounter with Jesus?

Let’s start by asking the following question: How do you see yourself as a disciple for Christ? I guess the first question to answer really, is  – Do you see yourself as Jesus’s disciple? His friend and bud? In reality, we ALL share the friendship of Christ and so we then share that friendship with each other.

With friendship there is a responsibility to cherish the relationship we have developed with one another AND there is no difference when we think of our relationship with Jesus! We just need to continue to develop it further and deeper.

Jesus had a very deep and personal relationship with all of his disciples – remember that Jesus even picked Judas! Think about that for just a minute. Let that one sink in! Ok… now let’s move on!

We often have a really hard time forgiving those who either fail us or intentionally hurt us in some way. Jesus spent time with ALL the disciples, including Judas, the one disciple who would seemingly hurt Jesus the most by betraying him. We all know the story leading to Calvary and we know how Judas reacted to his own personal failure to love – to love himself AND Jesus.

In the gospel today Jesus tells the disciples in a round about way about his eventual suffering and death. In particular, he addresses John’s disciples – that when we are in relationship with our God (the bridegroom) we must celebrate and rejoice that relationship. We must hang on every word that we hear in the dialogue we have with our God, and we must listen intently for what we are called to do to help in the vineyard of our lives and world.

Jesus choose to relate all of his remarks today to a love story in order get his point across. Love is at the center of a bride and bridegroom as they come together to live as one. That relationship is as intimate as life gets. Jesus, through his words to John’s followers, reminds them that Jesus must be at the center of each of our lives. Our love affair with God is paramount to our fundamental being.

So we sometimes stumble along the way of life and at times and put distance in our relationship with God – right? And when we do that we find ourselves sad or sorry for creating that distance. But we also seem to be running around being so preoccupied that we don’t necessarily stop and see the need to reestablish the “connection” OR “restore” the relationship to its earlier state. Sin separates us from God. Sometimes it’s little by little OR it can be a big step away.  Our choice.

Think about your best friend. Even with a best friend – we have disagreements. When you do there generally is some kind of friction or separation or distance created from that interaction. It generally requires one OR both parties to come back together and either apologize or make concessions. Generally there is forgiveness and reconciliation on both sides. That is the key for today!

God and the church call us to this time of Lent each year to cause us to pause and do several very important things.  First, we are called to take a break from the fast lane of life and slow down long enough to LISTEN to what God is calling us to do and to be. Secondly, we are called to evaluate our lives and strip away those things around us that lead us in the wrong direction – that is – away from God and thus reform our lives. Thirdly, we are called to accept God’s loving forgiveness through the church’s Sacrament of reconciliation. We reconcile or reconnect with God, just like we do with each other. But now the hardest part…. We are called by God to forgive ourselves. Once we have confessed our failing and our priest has absolved us, God opens those AMAZING and loving arms to welcome us back to that closer relationship we somehow chose to leave.

So we ALL have a lot of spiritual work to do these forty days. We need to prune ourselves of our failings and plant seeds of goodness and righteousness in our own life as well as the lives of our family and friends. We need to adopt an attitude of “can do” rather than “can’t do” or “won’t do”. Jesus reminds us, as he did with the disciples, that our encounter with him is sacred, deep and necessary for our salvation. We only have to look at our crucifix to see how much he was willing to do for each of us.

I hope your Lenten Journey this year proves to be filled with great strides reconnecting with Jesus and his Father. We all need reconnecting – and when we do we will surely deepen that relationship not only with Jesus, but with those around us because we will have lightened our own personal backpack of guilt and sadness and anything else that pulls us from focusing on God.

Closing Prayer: Lord, free me from all judgments. Help me not to compare myself to others, but rather to be totally focused on pleasing you. Help me to do all I can to advance the cause dearest to your heart, the salvation of my soul and the souls of others!

Action for the Day: Think about any relationship that are strained in your own life. Identify why it went off in a direction that has brought distance between you. Pray about it and ask God for the strength to be bold enough during this Lent to take the first steps needed to restore that relationship.

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