Saint Mary of the Angels homilies and reflections

Homily February 14, 2010. Preparing for Lent. Frank Herrmann, SJ

Preparing for Lent 

St. Mary of the Angels

Roxbury, MA

14 February 2010

F.R. Herrmann,S.J.


1. Preparation for hearing about God's love is the purpose of Lent.


Lent is a time to make more space for God in our lives;


to let God in--in over any obstacles, into a life already crowded;


to clear a path for God's approach; to make straight in our lives a highway for our God;


to give God time with us.


We know that 40 days from now we will be contemplating the mystery of Jesus dying for our sake and God's raising Him up, and raising us up in Him.


We don't want to hear this news about Jesus Christ as though it were just another item in the morning news on the radio, playing in the background. We don't even want to hear it as something that grabs our attention for awhile but then is forgotten like so many other passing events which, in a short time, we cannot recall. It is far too important for that.


We want the good news of God's love to grip our lives, to free and enliven us, to change our whole world.


If that is going to happen, we need to prepare ourselves to listen to the  account of Jesus' death and resurrection with our whole hearts and minds, to experience God's love more deeply; to let it shape our lives.


2. Lent is not a self-improvement project, although we sometimes think of it that way. When we hear the priest say on Ash Wednesday "Repent!" we may feel it is time again to whip ourselves into shape, morally or even physically. Those are worthy projects. But they are not at the heart of Lent.


We need to let God in so that God can do for us what Jesus is doing in the gospel for so many people: Let Him open our ears to his message, open our eyes to his presence, awaken us to the needs of others, free us from our narrowness and fears, give us the fullness of life. If we let God into our lives, God's grace will accomplish any self-improving that needs to be done.


Lent does have something to do with change. It is a time to let Jesus change us, as we listen to his message and celebrate the Eucharist together.


3. Changing is not a pre-condition for God approaching us in love.


Jesus did not approach each of his followers and say, "If you change, I will love you." Jesus loved them first. That is why he chose them. His companionship with them changed their lives.


Here is a little story from Fr. Anthony DeMello, S.J.:


I was anxious and depressed  and selfish. Everyone kept telling me to change.


I resented them, and I agreed with them, and I wanted to change, but couldn't, no matter how hard I tried.


What hurt the most was that, like the others, my best friend kept insisting that I change. So I felt powerless and trapped.


Then, one day, he said to me, "Don't change. I love you just as you are."


These words were music to my ears: "Don't change. Don't change. Don't change…I love you as you are."


I relaxed. I came alive. And suddenly, I changed!


Now I know that I couldn't really change until I found somebody who could love me whether I changed or not.


Is that how you love me, God?


4. We can attempt some practices, as Christians always have, to open ourselves to this unconditional love of God. Here are a few possibilities that occur to me. You will want to choose or add your own.


-pray; make a bigger space for God to draw near to you;


-read some Scripture or a spiritual book; let new ideas in;


-go to Mass sometime that you wouldn't ordinarily;


-join a prayer group; let the faith of others strengthen yours and your faith strengthen them;


-help out in the parish or at a charity; let the needs of others put your own in perspective;


-change your mind about someone or something (That's not easy. We think we have it all figured out.);


-don't respond harshly, even if you think you would be right to;


-forgive somebody;


-ask forgiveness from someone (That can be harder than forgiving.);




-sincerely praise a person (Praise is a wonderful gift that we all have within our possession; it's easy and pleasant to give. It can mean so much to another person. So often we neglect the opportunity.);


-encourage someone who is facing a challenge; 


-thank somebody;


-enable someone to do something they might not be able to do:


-say 'no' to yourself (out of love for somebody, or for your own sake)--and discover  you will survive the experience;


-help someone;


-ask for help (This may be more difficult than helping someone.);


-admit you are wrong about something (Said to be more difficult for men than women.);


-let go of a grudge, especially if it relates to members of your family where it can be most destructive.


There are many more each one of us can think of.


5. Whatever you choose to do, know that, when you do it, God's grace is gently changing you, conforming you to Christ, and preparing you for the great feast of the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord.




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