16 March 2007

CLOSER OR FARTHER?


Friday in the 3rd Week of Lent
Mk 12:28-34

The greatest effect that our yearly observance of the Lenten season can have on us is increase in our love of God and neighbor. Hopefully, by praying better, sacrificing better, and giving better every Lent, we learn and actually love God and neighbor better. Each Lenten season should be for us a step closer to the Kingdom of God. Is it?

When is our Lenten observance not a step closer to the Kingdom of God but a step farther away from it instead?

If our Lenten practices have turned into nothing but fanaticism which is more of love for the familiar no matter how wrong it is and for the popular no matter how erroneous it is, then no matter how many Lenten seasons we go through, we are not even a single step closer to the Kingdom of God. Lent is an opportune time to correct what is wrong. Quite often, more than one item needs correction in our popular piety. Love requires correcting errors. Let us begin with errors in the practice of the Faith.

If our Lenten discipline of prayer, sacrifice, and almsgiving is doubled but not deepened, then no matter how much we pray, how much we sacrifice, and how much we give, Lent does not bring us any significantly closer to the Kingdom of God. It is not praying more, sacrificing more, and giving more that truly matters, but praying better, sacrificing better, and giving better. The road that leads to the Kingdom of God is not calculated by the “more” of in our praying, sacrificing, and giving. Rather, the measure of our distance from the Kingdom of God is revealed by the “better” in our praying, sacrificing, and giving. Love does not ask for more, but always for the better. Let us love better.

If the Lenten call to conversion and renewal is only, strictly seasonal for us, then no matter how intense our Lenten observance is, our Lenten practices and discipline place us no millimeter closer to the Kingdom of God. The need for conversion and renewal is perennial for us. It should not be satisfied only during the days from Ash Wednesday through Holy Wednesday. The closer we are to the Kingdom of God, the more we should have been converted and renewed. Love demands a constant purification of the heart. Let us live Lent in season and out of season.

The Lenten season is already past halfway today. Where can we be found by now – closer or farther from the Kingdom of God?

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