A simple sharing to begin the Holy Season of Lent...
The holy season of Lent is a time when we seek wisdom via self-sacrifice, becoming as much as possible and to the best of our human abilities, dead to sin; so that we can rise with Jesus to new life. Yes, as Psalm 89 echoes that the Lord has been our refuge from one generation to another…yes, Lord, make us know the shortness of our life, that we may gain wisdom of heart.
This Lent, as we are reminded in the reading taken from the book of Tobit 4, let us once more all turn to the Lord with our whole heart, be faithful to Him throughout this season…never entertain the will to sin…never follow the ways that are not right…never turn our face from any poor man…to give bread to those who are hungry…most of all to bless the Lord God in everything.
“O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” (Luke 18:13, Jerusalem Bible)
As Christians, we are constantly reminded to practise the Gospel values…our vocation…in our ordinary daily work…or more precisely, “ordinary busy daily work”. Wherever we go, wherever we are…there is the Catholic Church. We must strive to live faithfully and make our work holy…a testimony that God is with us and God goes with us…wherever we go.
In the secular world today, so much is happening so fast that we are constantly occupied or rather, busy; hardly have time to think, ponder, reflect or even pray! People these days simply do not have time or make time to stop and think…people today are hardly bothered or contemplative of their journey, their path…we are all caught or trapped in a “rat race”; for what? This is the question we all need to constantly ask ourselves; a question I always ask myself.
This Lent, fellow pilgrims, let us not fall into the trap of workaholism; our tendency to overwork. Have we all lost focus on eternity and instead choose to live in this temporal life on earth? Does everything that we labour and plan for now, focus on eternity? What are we so busy about? Have we not taken time to stop and think deep enough? What is our perspective of life, our journey? Do not the ashes marked and crossed on our foreheads remind us of anything? What has the materialistic world come to for us when we sometimes cannot even find time to get decent rest?
I quote from Scott Hahn’s book on his spiritual journey in Opus Dei, “We have succumbed to the materialism of Revelation’s beast, marked repeatedly by the sixth day (of Creation) – 666 – perpetually returning to the world of the workweek…” and not finding the seventh day which is the Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. (Exodus 31:15)
Each year, more than the season of Lent, we welcome and even look forward to the invention of new techy gadgets, labour-saving devices, the Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Galaxy Note II…all aimed at extending the 6th workday well into our time in the car, at home, with the family, at church, even at mass on Ash Wednesday! The world we live in is losing (or has totally lost) its ability to sense God’s being and His holy presence. Our secular work has transformed us (by our very own choice) to worship our work, our bosses, our projects, our salary slips…emptying the church of its “body”; as a consequence, worship, prayer time, scripture reading time, God's time…are being shoved aside…we push God out of our lives with the simple excuse that “there is simply no choice but we have to work to feed the family, our children's future, for our retirement, etc., etc.”.
This 2013 Lent, let us choose to remember our baptism when God entered or was poured into the rhythm of our lives. Without God, we would simply be music with no rhyme, i.e., noise. From my own journey, I can testify that without God, work becomes chaotic, disordered and empty. God is simply all we need...God alone is enough!
This solemn Lent 2013, there is also a veil of sadness in our hearts following Pope Benedict XVI's emotional farewell retirement announcement, radically breaking a 600-year tradition, deciding to retire on February 28, 2013; after nearly 8 wonderful and memorable years...for, as he puts it, the good of the Church. This Pope has taught us very simply about not being held to ransom by power; instead, to simply serve the flock. Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that the path of power is not the road of God. Let the truth be spoken rather than what needs to be heard. The Pope has taught us, this Lent, that individually, we are not as important as the institution that we lead.
This Lent, we all struggle to decide to bring some spiritual order into our ordinary work days; to make it a bit more extraordinary for God and for others. Let us not forget God and fall into the sin of depending on our own mortal selves too much, too easily. Without God, our lives would have been un-livable and restless, distracted by the seductive noise of the world...we then become part of this noise.
This Lent, be simply quiet and listen to the whisper of the Lord. Surrender your work to Him. Turn around, turn God-ward, be a good Catholic, not a Workaholic! The choice is yours...but then, as humans, none of us would know if there would be another Lent for us... Therefore, in full solidarity with Pope Benedict XVI, let us choose to make more room for God in our lives today...choose to make music with our lives for God, as part of His heavenly orchestra praising and glorifying God.