Best Lent Ever Week 2: Create Life-Giving Habits

(March 12, 2017)

Message: Prayer changes everything so develop the life-changing habit of daily prayer. Pay attention to Jesus. Listen to him.

This weekend we begin the second full week of the Best Lent Ever. Before taking up the the question for this week, let's look at what we covered on Ash Wednesday and the First Sunday of Lent.

On Ash Wednesday Jesus talked about the penitential practices - prayer, fasting and almsgiving: communication with God, self-discipline and generosity. That was Ash Wednesday, then last Sunday we saw how prayer changes everything - ten minutes of silence to listen to God can change everything.

Today's question has to do with how to achieve that daily time of prayer: When was the last time you set out to intentionally create a life-changing habit?

I encourage you to read (or re-read) chapter 21 of Resisting Happiness. Habits have power. Negative habits can ruin our lives and positive habits can transform our lives.

Matthew Kelly gives examples of negative habits: Procrastination - putting off hard tasks. Constantly checking email and social media. Eating when not hungry. Guilty as charged!

During Lent we can make progress in overcoming destructive habits, including habits of the mind, such as worrying about things you have no control over or returning to feelings of guilt even after God has forgiven you.

The way to overcome destructive habits is by crowding them out with life-changing habits. And where's the best place to start? You already know: by developing the habit of ten minutes of silence to listen to God.

In today's Gospel a voice from heaven says, "This is my beloved son; listen to him." Listen to Jesus. What matters in the long run - even more than the incredible experience of the Transfiguration - is listening to Jesus.

Abraham listened - as we heard in the first reading. In the Bible "listen" means not only to hear but to internalize and put into practice. He obeyed God. Sometimes we don't like word "obey." But remember its roots: "obey" comes from the Latin "ob-audire" meaning to listen or pay attention. By paying attention to God, Abraham becomes the source of blessing for all the communities on earth. Today Jews, Moslems and we Christians consider Abraham our father in faith. Abraham listened to the Lord's voice. He paid attention. He obeyed God.

God sometimes shakes us up to give us a deeper message. This happened with St. John Paul II. During World War II he resisted the Nazis by participating in an underground theater - and he dreamed of a future as a professional actor. God had other plans and he allowed the young man to experience something even worst than Nazi oppression: the death of his last surviving family member - his dad. He prostrated himself on the floor to pray. After what may have been an entire night in prayer, he stood. He knew what he had to do. His loneliness he would bring to an intensive relation to God. Daily prayer - sometimes 10 minutes of silence, usually much more - enabled St. John Paul to become one of the pivotal players of the 20th century and the new millennium.

You and I might not change the course of world history, but we can change the course of our own life - and perhaps people close to us. We can develop life-changing habits. You know what I mean: regular exercise, eating healthy food, tackling the difficult job first. "Worst first" as they say.

It takes time - and persistence - to form life-changing habits. I'm 70 and still waiting for some to kick in. :) Matthew Kelly gives great insights on how to do it. One at a time. Start with prayer. Spontaneous prayer is great - thanking Jesus, asking him on behalf of others and yourself: short javelin prayers like "Help me Lord," "Dear God, I need you." "Jesus, I trust in you." Those short prayers have power, but even more important is sustained daily prayer - the habit of ten minutes or more of silence to listen the Lord. If you do it, it will affect every other aspect of your life.

Prayer changes everything so develop the life-changing habit of daily prayer. Pay attention to Jesus. Listen to him. Start now: take out your Mass Journal or notebook and write one idea that will help you this week to become your best self. Then find those ten minutes of silence. Like St. John Paul God may surprise you. "This is my beloved son; listen to him." Amen.

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Spanish Version

From Archives (Year A homilies for 2nd Sunday of Lent):

Prayer and Spiritual Combat Week 2 (2014)
Sons of Abraham (2011)
Visit of Fr. Peter West (2008)
A Confrontation with Evil (2005)
The Boston Scandal: A Lenten Reflection (2002)
God or Gods of Culture? (1999)

Homilies for Second Sunday of Lent ("Transfiguration Sunday")

2016: First Things: Children
2015: New Mind and Heart Week 2
2014: Prayer and Spiritual Combat Week 2
2013: Home of the Homesick
2012: Two Steps to Glory
2011: Sons of Abraham
2010: Freedom from False Gods
2009: A Glimpse of the Mystery
2008: Visit of Fr. Peter West
2007: Chosen
2006: Trust
2005: A Confrontation with Evil
2004: They Spoke of His Exodus
2003: Exposing a Modern Myth
2002: The Boston Scandal: A Lenten Reflection
2001: Voice from the Earthquake
2000: A Million Dollars for Your TV
1999: God or Gods of Culture?
1998: Enemies of the Cross

Homily for Transfiguration 2006: The Son of Man
..........2000: What Lies Beneath

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Sunday Homilies

Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)

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Fr. Michael White's Homilies ("messages")

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Generations of Faith I am looking forward to Generations of Faith this Wednesday. We will focus on Jesus' Passion, Death and Resurrection. As we say in the Creed: "For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures." This article of faith will give the opportunity to focus on two vital questions: Innocent Suffering and the morality of Physician Assisted Suicide. Innocent Suffering - The Shack To enter the question of Innocent Suffering I will use the book (and recently released movie) The Shack. It's about a man who suffers what many would consider the most horrible thing that could happen to a human being. After years of rage and sadness that cause him to doubt God's goodness, he receives a mysterious note leading him to an encounter with the three Persons of the Trinity. The book has flaws but imaginatively deals with the biggest question one can ask: How can I believe in a good God in face of so much suffering, especially innocent suffering? The Shack offers no easy answer but it does point to the person who can give an answer: the One who though completely innocent suffered and died in our place. Jesus' Suffering and the Issue of Physician Assisted Suicide Jesus' Passion and Death not only gives God's response to human suffering, but also offers us the starting point for addressing the issue of Physician Assisted Suicide. If Jesus' suffering brings redemption, does this not indicate a value in suffering joined to his? St. Paul says, "Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church." In Generations of Faith I will address why a Christian can never participate in Physician Assisted Suicide. Along with that I will talk about the importance of designating a proxy decision-maker to make health care decisions should a person become incapacitated and unable to decide for himself.