Go to Your Inner Room

(Homily for Ash Wednesday)

Message: Open your heart - go to your inner room.

Welcome to Lent! As the readings from Joel and Paul make clear, this is the time of repentance - a change of heart expressed in fasting, prayer and almsgiving. This Lent I will focus on prayer: What Jesus says, "Go to your inner room." Not that we should neglect fasting and almsgiving. We all know we need to get our eating under control - and help our children get better eating habits. Fasting - for example, meatless Fridays - can help in that direction. And besides eating habits, don't most of us have problems getting our finances in order? Almsgiving - setting aside the "first fruits" for God and for the poor - can be a huge step. So fasting and almsgiving are vital, but for them to work, we need something deeper: prayer, going to that inner room where God speaks directly and we listen to him.

When we avoid that inner room, some things inevitably result. We become sad, weary and discouraged. Pope Francis has written powerfully about the discouragement that can affect us even in the Church. I would like to quote a full paragraph. I usually don't do this, but in this case, he should be quoted in full. Please listen carefully:

"Todayís obsession with immediate results makes it hard for pastoral workers to tolerate anything that smacks of disagreement, possible failure, criticism, the cross. And so the biggest threat of all gradually takes shape: 'the gray pragmatism of the daily life of the Church, in which all appears to proceed normally, while in reality faith is wearing down and degenerating into small-mindedness'. A tomb psychology thus develops and slowly transforms Christians into mummies in a museum. Disillusioned with reality, with the Church and with themselves, they experience a constant temptation to cling to a faint melancholy, lacking in hope, which seizes the heart like 'the most precious of the devilís potions'. Called to radiate light and communicate life, in the end they are caught up in things that generate only darkness and inner weariness, and slowly consume all zeal for the apostolate. For all this, I repeat: Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the joy of evangelization!" (EV 82, 83)

How do we avoid a "tomb psychology," the temptation to "cling to melancholy"? How do we recover the "joy of evangelization"? There's only one way: Prayer, go to your inner room. I will speak about prayer and spiritual combat during the six weeks of Lent. Make the commitment to come to Mass every weekend. (There is a commandment, you know, to keep holy the Lord's Day - the "Sunday obligation"). This Lent I will address the central issue of prayer: what it is, how to do it, why we need it.

Today I ask you to open your heart - go to your inner room. This Lent The Light Is On For you. Parishes will be open Friday evenings from 6 to 7 for prayer and confession. Repent, ask for a new heart. In a few moments you will receive a a cross of ashes on your forehead and hear the word, "Repent." As St. Paul tells us: Now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation." Amen.

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Spanish Version

From Archives (Ash Wednesday Homilies):

First Things
New Mind and Heart
Go to Your Inner Room
Return to Me
The Purpose of Lent
Two Cheers for Catholic Guilt
Don't Waste This Crisis
When You Give Alms
Back to the Basics
Dealing With Guilt
Exercise of Holy Desire

Homilies for First Sunday of Lent ("Temptation Sunday"):

2016: First Things: Prayer
2015: New Mind and Heart Week 1
2014: Prayer and Spiritual Combat Week 1
2013: Do Not Talk to the Devil
2012: The Convenant with Noah Today
2011: The Purpose of Temptation
2010: Who Is Like God?
2009: Knee Mail
2008: The Devil is a Logician
2007: More Powerful than Satan
2006: Sir, Go on the Other Side
2005: The Temptation of Sloth
2004: Temptation of Spirituality
2003: Lent with C.S. Lewis
2002: First Signs of Spring
2001: How Satan Operates
2000: The Rabbit's Foot
1999: Original Sin & Temptation
1998: Hidden Sin of Gluttony
1997: Jesus' Temptation & Ours

Sunday Homilies

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