Matthew 7:3-5: “ Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Haagen Dazs Strawberry ice cream is at this very moment, the front runner on my list of what I crave for supper; yet, before you take concealed jubilation from judging me, for preferring strawberry ice cream over broiled chicken for supper, please, calm yourself down and read my confession for redemption. My cravings also include green beans that are steamed to perfection, with just a hint of a crunch; or sautéed Brussel sprouts with lemon and shallots; or a tender baby green salad with a hint of homemade French vinaigrette barely kissing those buttery greens. I envision these delectable greens, proudly positioned on a plate right beside my decadent bowl of creamy, whole berry ice cream. My doctor has made it perfectly clear that one will raise my cholesterol, while it simultaneously makes my taste buds sing an aura of thanksgiving and that the other will silently add healthy nutrients to my chemical well- being.
Abba John the Little (c.339-409) is noted for having said: “We have abandoned a light burden, namely self-criticism and taken up the heavy burden, namely self-justification.” How have we in the Year of Our Lord 2016, deluded ourselves to believe that we are spiritually ‘mature,’ when people go homeless and hungry, uneducated, women are treated unfairly, and homosexuals are heartbroken by the Anglican Communion’s need to ‘investigate’ their worthiness as God’s children.
I beg of you to choose to be brave during Lent 2016, by giving up your passivity and denial of whatever needs repairing in your soul. Giving up chocolate, bread, or wine should be spiritually embarrassing for you to admit, when we all have much larger stones hanging around our necks to confront. I would rather you sip a glass of French burgundy, while nibbling a piece of chocolate, if it allowed you the space to get real before Jesus.
Lent 2016, we must choose to persevere through whatever our personal hell is and allow our past to cease from being our present. Forgiveness of self or others should not be an onerous process, if we genuinely choose to forget and to forgive. You cannot have good without evil. The demons in life feast on the banquet of regrets that we choose to serve.
Lent 2016 beckons for a change in menu. It is so simple to choose a new manner of being; yet, I struggle daily wondering why we make choices that will guarantee spiritual poverty and pain. We have all owned real-estate in Hell, either personally or by watching the news, or quite frankly this Presidential election.
Here is your homework, if you want to choose to leave the darkness in your life and live into the light of Christ. Put an app on your phone that will send you a daily meditation with the inspired word of God, better known as the Holy Scripture. If you love holding a book like I do, then read the psalms or take one of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer and read the prayers, or psalms, or the Confession of Sin, or the Rite of Holy Baptism. Read until these holy words become your oxygen.
The Desert Monastics taught that Jesus suffered for us, so that we could choose to love one another. Why do we continue to choose not to believe that we are saved through grace? Why do we choose to reject God’s heart, through our judgmental thoughts, words, and deeds? Why would you want to reject being God’s beloved? Exactly, who do you think you are to tell God that you are NOT WORTHY of God’s love?
If I hear one more “mature” Christian tell me that they are unworthy or spout the insane notion that God sent a person their struggle to wake them up or to help them grow, then I am going to take the child, whether they are 30 or100 plus years old to a cell in the desert, so they can live silently like the Desert Monastics and hear God, so that they can then learn how God works.
We do dumb things and then we choose to look for ways, to blame others, for our own unhappiness. We speak, as if we know the mind of God and judge how a person has lived their life, while we commit a sin by not loving the person God has before us. We walk around with a rock in our pocket, just in case some suffering fool crosses our path. We refuse to simply say, “ I screwed up. Please forgive me.” We do not say, “ I am here to LISTEN, LOVE, and WALK WITH YOU through your darkest days.” We don’t believe that we are stumbling and are in need of a flashlight. We whine about our lives, when we are the author of our happiness.
Life lived fully and passionately is resplendent with contradictions and choices that we make moment to moment. We must silently meditate on holy teachings and then take action. We are constantly making poor choices and then what baffles me is that when we allow our souls to speak or act without God, we are surprised that we are responsible for causing pain to self and others. We can choose to create a life filled with loneliness and a bitter spirit. We can choose to live with God in a reconciling relationship that grows and moves and is filled with the Holy Spirit.
My blessing is that I choose to answer, “Yes,” when I was called to serve with the fabulous clergy team at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and School. My days are fulfilled with old souls who are five years old and sometimes, sadly surprised by infant souls, who are in their sixties, seventies, or eighties. Who knew better about making choices than our Lord? This Lent, read any of the Desert Monastics of Egypt, who were monks and nuns from the 3rd -5th centuries. Their writings are prodigious wisdom sources for us today; especially during LENT 2016, as we as a parish and school examine the question, “ What is The Word of God?”
If you want to have a holy Lent, then you must trust in God. Spiritual resilience, study, silence before God, sacrifice, laughter at self, and honesty are required to grow and to then fall into God’s open arms. Choose to silence your brain and voice, when judgmental whispers are ripping your soul to shreds. Abba Pambo taught, “If you have a heart, then you can be saved.” Emulate the holy teachings that the Ammas and the Abbas, the spiritual sisters and brothers, of the desert monastics lived. During Lent 2016, let’s make good choices.