The last two Sundays and today prepare us for Lent. Jesus is teaching us to see the sins we commit against God and our neighbor. For example, we tend to be hypocrites and to judge others. We are hypocritical because when we judge, we are comparing others not with God’s commandments, but with ourselves. We have developed a list of criteria on how others should live their lives. However, I wonder how we judge ourselves when we are subject to this same criterion. I wonder if we would be truthful when we judge who we are and how we treat others. We use our eyes to see others and objects around us. But our eyes cannot see inward, just outward. Then, they must be the eyes of our hearts to see inward. This is how we prepare ourselves for Lent.
For many years the church has taught us that we must deny ourselves something for Lent. Have we really done that? When I ask the children what they have denied themselves for Lent, they so often say chocolate. Very good. So I ask them how much chocolate have you eaten today. None. So I ask them: How much chocolate have you eaten this week? None. I ask you: Will you eat chocolate next week? None. So, I ask, “Have you really denied yourself anything for Lent when you don’t have it now?” The children understand. How can you deny yourself something you don’t have?
Now the question is: What will you receive on Easter for not denying yourself now? A piece of chocolate? I would think we would deny ourselves something that would bring us closer to Christ.
The gospel will teach us to pray, fast and give alms. One way to deny ourselves in prayer is to offer prayers for others. We often pray only for ourselves. To make Lent special this year, pray each day for others. One way to fast is when we deny ourselves something like coffee or beer. Take that money and offer it to a charity. One way to give alms is not only with money, but also with volunteering at a charity. The offering of time is also a way of giving alms. You can make this Lent something special if you plan now. Choose carefully what you will deny yourself so that you may enter the Easter Resurrection in the glory of the Risen Christ.
May the Lord bless you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen