The Lenten journey is one of faith, faith in God, in our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the promises made to us by God. This means that the Lenten journey is likely a challenging one, for we are raised in a culture that is inclined to believe that we are to be masters of our own destiny, that we are to live by self-propulsion, The words of Ralph Waldo Emerson capture this thinking well: The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.
In contrast to such thinking, St. Paul speaks of faith, which turns us towards an Other. As he says in this Sunday’s second reading (Romans 4:13-25), we share the faith of Abraham in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist…Hoping against hope.
Beyond the immediately verifiable, the scientifically measurable and the emotionally felt, beyond ourselves, thanks to faith, we touch a transcendent God, Who loves us and Who is closer than all of this and we are to ourselves. And, in such intimate relationship, in faith, we can have the utmost confidence—as did Abraham, who did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
We are the people of God’s faithful presence and God’s promises. Sometimes, we struggle to believe because there is no proof and no feeling. And then, somehow, if we try to let our hearts be quiet, and we utter some expression of trust, something surfaces in us, and we sense that are not alone. And, the wish expressed in the 1926 song from the musical “Oh, Kay”, composed by George and Ira Gershwin, “Someone to Watch Over Me” becomes an experience of promise divinely fulfilled:
There's a somebody
I'm longin' to see.
I hope that he turns
Out to be
Someone to watch over me.
Trusting in the promises with you,
Fr. Dominique Rector
On the first Sunday of Lent, we always consider the temptations of Christ. We are off to an encouraging start! Actually, let us not misunderstand this. As I sought to communicate in last Sunday’s sermon, “Lent is really about glory”. “Glory is the excess, the radiance, the overflow of divine love.” Thus, “Lent is about discovering, accessing, yielding to divine love—albeit often hidden beneath our pain, our ordinariness, our distraction”.
Lent is not the spiritual Olympics. I sometimes forget this, and, a few steps into the Lenten journey, my resolutions fall by the wayside: too ambitious, too much about me. Our Lenten resolutions are about “discovering, accessing and yielding to divine love”. Now, there will be challenges, but they have already been met by Jesus. Whether my temptations to be unfaithful originate in my psyche fearful of surrender or from an outside force or both is difficult to know. What I do know is that, each day, I must choose to let myself be loved by and to love our Lord. Concrete, daily, sometimes baby steps, full of hope.
You will find on our website and in printed form in the church, 40 suggested ways to discover, access and yield to divine love. These are invitations to let oneself be loved by and to love our Lord. We are indeed off to an encouraging start, for Christ precedes us and, all along the way, promises to open to us the riches of His love.
Fr. Dominique, Brother-in-Christ
I can recall from my high school chaplaincy days the walls of the school covered in posters with catchy phrases about courage and being oneself:
A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles. Christopher Reeve
Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one. Eleanor Roosevelt
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. Oscar Wilde
This is all fine and dandy, but there is more. We are not simply called, as we sometimes hear, to "speak our truth". We are called to speak the truth, Jesus Christ. St. Paul, in this Sunday's second reading (2 Corinthians 4:3-6), tells us this: and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake
We are, of course, each unique individuals who want to be ourselves, unhindered in a complex world, given room to grow and make mistakes and uncover our gifts. But, we are most ourselves in Jesus Christ, in God. Ask anyone in a 12-step program about the happiness and freedom they experience in turning their will and their lives over to their Higher Power. We belong to an-Other, in Whom we find the fullness of happiness and freedom, in Whom we find a safe space, in Whom we no longer need to pretend that we have the courage and strength to conquer the world, in Whom we find our Creator, the source of an endless love that enables us to be entirely given to one another in love. St. Catherine of Sienna (+1380) tells us: "Be who you were created to be, and you will set the world on fire." There is one condition, however: surrender. As Mother Teresa (+1997) so wisely exhorts us: "Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your weakness".
Believing with you,
pastor and co-sojourner
Urgency to Love
This Sunday's second reading (I Corinthians 9:16-23) is rather compelling. St. Paul, speaks to the Christian community in Corinth in 54, and to the Christian community at Church of the Ascension and Saint Agnes in 2018, telling them and us of evangelization, that is, of sharing the Gospel, of sharing our Lord Himself, with others, drawing them into this unparalleled experience of divine love that will last forever.
...I am entrusted with a commission...and, I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.
We have each been entrusted with a commission, and are to become "all things to all people". What does this mean? Well, we are indwelt by God all-mighty and all-merciful. Indeed, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity (+1906), in addressing God, says, "It seems to me that I have found my heaven on earth, because my heaven is you, my God, and you are in my soul. You in me, and I in you - may this be my motto." Indwelt we are, and compelled we are to share this Presence, to allow God to work through us to touch those around us. For this to happen, however, we must choosethose around us, we must make ourselves available to those around us. We must show up. This we seek to do knowing that, if we do not, we will not fully share in the "blessings of the gospel", that is to say, something in our relationship with God will not flourish. This is not always easy, but it is possible, for it happens by the grace of God ("But for the grace of God, go I"; John Bradford +1555, English Reformer).
Do we choose? Do we approach and welcome our guests on Sunday? Do we say something kind to our annoying co-worker? Do we ask for the grace to forgive our spouse? Do we listen to our children? Do we smile at the cashier? Do we pray for our politicians? Do we reach out to the person we know is struggling and alone? Let us do so, let us choose, leaning on the Holy Spirit, for "nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37).
Choosing with you,
From the desk of the Rector