There's a holiday song that I love, but which, I think, always gets lost in the holiday shuffle. The song goes like this:
Maybe it's much too early in the gameAh, but I thought I'd ask you just the same What are you doing New Year's, New Year's eve?
Wonder whose arms will hold you good and tightWhen it's exactly twelve o'clock that night Welcoming in the New Year, New Year's Eve?
This year, as we prepare for the Lenten season, that song is on repeat in my head.
Maybe I'm crazy to suppose, as the song goes, but I can hear God asking me:
You see, the original song is a love song. The singer is asking someone--his beloved--what she's doing on New Year's, and whether he can spend the evening with her, and whether he'll be given the chance to give her a kiss at midnight. He wants to know if she will choose him, and show him how much she loves him.
For Lent, God is looking at us--His beloveds--and wondering, what we will do this Lenten season to show Him how very much we love Him?
That's what Lent is about, isn't it? Loving God, with all our hearts and minds, and loving our neighbor as ourselves.
How will we do that this year?
For decades, we've chosen a variety of things to give up. Food always seems to top the list. As we mature spiritually, we start adding devotions--an additional rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, or the Sorrowful Mother Rosary, perhaps.
After a while, you start to realize that, maybe, it's best to ask God what he wants you to do for Lent. He knows best, after all. He knows what we need to do to grow closer to Him.
The best place to start, when we seek to do His will, is to abandon our own.
How does that look?
Instead of giving up something tangible, we will strive to accept what God gives us, every minute of every day, and CHOOSE to respond in LOVE.
This past Sunday, God gave us a roadmap in the readings from both the Traditional and Novus Ordo Masses.
In the Traditional calendar, Quinquagesima Sunday, we are given a roadmap for doing God's will.
The Introit begins by reminding us where our strength lies--in God, our rock of refuge. We can't count on our own strength to do this. He, alone, can rescue us.
Be my rock of refuge, O God, a stronghold to give me safety. You are my rock and my fortress; for Your name’s sake You will lead and guide me.
In You, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. In Your justice rescue me and deliver me.
In the Collect and Gradual, we acknowledge that it is only God who can save us from the captivity of sin:
O Lord, we beseech You, mercifully hear our prayers; loose us from the chains of our sins and keep us from all adversity.
You are the God Who alone works wonders; among the peoples You have made known Your power.
Then, we get to the Epistle, 1 Corinthians 13.
Charity is patient, is kind; charity does not envy, is not pretentious, is not puffed up, is not ambitious, is not self-seeking, is not provoked; thinks no evil, does not rejoice over wickedness, but rejoices with the truth; bears with all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Charity never fails, whereas prophecies will disappear, and tongues will cease, and knowledge will be destroyed.
For those seeking to do God's will, here is the perfect To Do list. Incorporate this into your Plan of Love, and you're well on your way.
The Gospel reminds us that none of this will be easy. Even after three years of walking with Him, the Apostles didn't comprehend what he was telling them. (So we must go easy on ourselves when we fail!)
At that time, Jesus taking to Himself the Twelve said to them, Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that have been written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and scourged and spit upon; and after they have scourged Him, they will put Him to death; and on the third day He will rise again. And they understood none of these things and this saying was hidden from them, neither did they get to know the things that were being said.
He tells us to follow Him, and that always leads to the Cross.
So does self-denial. Dying to self. Abandonment of one's will.
Think of how often you wish life were different. You wish the guy in front of you (or behind you) would drive the speed limit. You wish this line weren't so long. You wish that person wasn't so rude, or that other person so annoying.
When we don't accept the life and circumstances presented to us, every day, we are missing out on the opportunity to do God's will in every little thing. And we have oh, so many opportunities.
One person who refused to pass up an opportunity to see the face of Christ was the blind man at the wayside on the road to Jericho, in the Gospel mentioned above. He heard Jesus coming, and He was determined to not let Him pass him by. He shouted, and everyone told him to be quiet.
But he cried out all the louder,
Son of David, have mercy on me!
Then Jesus stopped and commanded that he should be brought to Him. And when he drew near, He asked him, saying,
What would you have Me do for you?
And he said,
Lord, that I may see.
And Jesus said to him,
Receive your sight, your faith has saved you.
Do you believe that God will heal you this Lent?
The Novus Ordo readings for the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time were just as apropos. In the first reading, the Lord tells Moses:
"Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them:
Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.
"You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart.
Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen,
do not incur sin because of him.
Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
I am the LORD."
The Responsorial Psalm reminds us that the Lord, who tells us to pick up our crosses and follow Him, is kind and merciful.
Are we kind and merciful?
The second reading gives us a warning:
Let no one deceive himself.
If any one among you considers himself wise in this age,
let him become a fool, so as to become wise.
And the Gospel,
"You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."
The overarching theme of ALL of these readings, and of Jesus' ministry, is
So, what are you doing for Lent this year?
Will it help you to LOVE as Christ calls us to do?
We have so, so many opportunities--not just one kiss at midnight--to show our Beloved how very much we love Him, and to give him our hearts.
And because He is God, He will give us what we need to do what He wants us to do.
Images: Pixabay, The Last Sermon of Our Lord (Dernier Sermon de Notre-Seigneur) by James Tissot; Jesus healing the Blind Man, by Brian Jekel (used with permission), © Brian Jekel Artist; Sacred Heart of Jesus by Pompeo Batoni (public domain); pixabay