Be not afraid!

“I am the vine, and you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me.”

So far in Lent we have focused on the change and reform necessary in our lives. We have been focusing on the various Lenten disciplines, the means and methods by which we achieve conversion, change and reform. These disciplines help us become more ardent and faithful livers of Jesus’s gospel way.

The subjects of fasting, sacrifice or giving, and study have been covered thus far. Next week we resume with the consideration of prayer and proclamation.

Our Holy Church pauses today to celebrate. We sense it because today we hear the Gloria and the Alleluia. Lenten purple is put away for this moment and is replaced by joyous white.

We celebrate because this Sunday, one-hundred and twenty-four years ago, a group of oppressed immigrants, people treated disrespectfully by oppressors in their home countries, right here in the United States, and even by their church, people thought little of by their neighbors, took the lessons learned from the Lenten disciplines they faithfully practiced and put them to action. 

This Sunday what they learned from fasting, sacrifice, study, prayer, and the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus, humanity’s Emancipator, bore fruit. They found themselves the branches of the true Vine – alive in Christ. They found themselves freed of the dead old branch pruned away because of its corruption, pruned away because it heeded deceitful spirits and followed men with seared consciences.

These heroic people stood on the side of Jesus and just as proclaimed in Wisdom, He, the Just One, confronted their oppressors with great confidence. Those oppressors stood there in awe and they still do today.

As with every true Christian. from the time of the Acts Church. those faith filled immigrant heroes stood up without fear. They heard Jesus say, Fear not little flock. They inherited and have passed on to us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

We have Christ Jesus. We are His branches. His Father strengthens us and fills us with His good grace. We can face any fear and no longer be debilitated by it. The tender love of God has freed us from terror, from being held down, and from slavery to the opinions of those who do not know the Lord. A disciplined life strengthens us for this. Faithful trust is the fruit of the reform necessary in our lives and the world. Today we celebrate those who trusted and say with them:  In You O Lord I place my trust. Boże, do Ciebie się uciekam!

Working to change.

As they were coming down from the mountain, He charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Lent calls us to change, to reform. Lenten discipline presupposes that we need reform. We may need reform because we lack an understanding of God’s call, or our religious practice has become just habit, or we are just going through the motions without knowing why, or just maybe, we are comfortable and do not want to change or reform.

Throughout our shared Lenten journey, we are studying the means and methods by which we achieve conversion, change and reform. This study will help us to reset our lives, right set our expectations, and get to the change and reform necessary to be ardent and faithful livers of Jesus’s gospel way.

Last week we studied the discipline of fasting. We learned that as we fast from what pulls us away from the gospel, we feel Jesus filling that space with new longing to live the gospel as well as His grace power to do so. 

In the coming weeks we will continue with the subjects of prayer, study, and proclamation. Today we focus on giving, also known as sacrifice.

There is no more poignant call and answer to giving than Abraham’s. As the Passover sacrifice of a lamb prefigures Jesus, so Abraham’s offering of his son prefigures God’s giving of His Son Jesus.

Sacrifice is a call and a response. Abraham could have easily said: No, I’m too busy, I don’t feel like it, Your request goes too far, Moriah is too far. Yet, no matter how impossibly difficult it was for Abraham he answered yes, “Here I am!” In Lent we are called to answer yes to sacrifice and giving more than we normally would, to doing the harder things, and to permanently change the way we answer.

In our sacrifice and giving, God recognizes our devotion. As He said to Abraham: I see how devoted you are. God recognized that Abraham did not quit or hold back. Even more, God recognizes the fact that Abraham did not grumble afterward, but rather saw the gifts around him and he gave them to God. Because of that, God promised His abundant blessing in terms of descendants, victory, and that others will find blessing because of Abraham’s giving.

In Jesus dying and rising those gifts are carried forward for us. Because of Jesus’ devotion to His Father’s call and His giving response, we can call ourselves His descendants. We have the only victory that matters, and others find blessing in us. 

Lent calls us to give and sacrifice. Let us respond recognizing that we are doing so from the storehouse of abundant blessings He gives us and as the legacy Jesus left.

Working to change.

Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

On Ash Wednesday we heard that Lent calls us to change, to reform. 

Lenten discipline presupposes that we need reform at different levels. Perhaps we need to reform because we lack an understanding of God’s call. Perhaps our religious practice has become habit rather than challenge. Perhaps we are still doing things because mom or dad said so. Maybe, just maybe, we are comfortable and just do not want to change and reform.

Here we are and now is the time to convert, to change and reform. But how do I get there and do it?

Throughout the Lenten journey we are sharing together we will study the means and methods by which we will achieve conversion, change and reform. This study will help us to reset our lives, right set our expectations, and get to the change and reform necessary to be ardent and faithful livers of Jesus’s gospel way.

Here is what we will study – the disciplines of the season: fasting, giving (sacrifice), praying, study, and proclamation – and how though these disciplines we come to conversion, change and reform.

Each of the Lenten disciplines are work. If any were easy to us, we need to find a way to make them a challenge. It may not be just in doing more of x, but in doing x in a different way.

Let’s say we love fasting; it is never that hard. Well, let’s fast in a different way, from a thing other than food, from a thing that pulls us away from living the gospel way.

Today we focus on the fast. As the hymn proclaims, these forty days of Lent O Lord, with You we fast (and pray).

Fasting is a means by which we rend (i.e., break) our hearts, tearing them away from the attractions that trap us and hold us back and refocusing our time and attention on Jesus’ gospel path. In fasting we separate ourselves from the things that distract us from the gospel cause.

There is so much that tries to distract us, pull us away from the gospel way. Here is a great question to ask ourselves in relation to our fasting: I would be sitting here reading scripture or praying or doing good works except that I am _______. I would be reading scripture or praying or doing good works far more often if I wasn’t _______. There is our stop doing that.

As we fast from what distracts and pulls us away from the gospel way, we will feel Jesus filling that cleared space with new longing to live the gospel and the power to do so.