Bottom line: To engage in that spiritual battle, like Jesus we need prayer, fasting and generosity. That's the way forward, that's the road to recovery.
It's been a little over a year since we had the first diagnosed case of Covid-19 right here in Snohomish County. We've had a rough twelve months but it seems like we may be rounding a corner - that we are on the road to recovery.
Something similar is happening in our Church. Ash Wednesday puts us on the path to recovery. Jesus in fact gives us the road map.
If we are going to recover in our personal lives, our families, our parish, the first step is prayer. Jesus tells us, "when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you." This is our starting point. Personal prayer of course leads to praying with others, but individual prayer is foundational.
During this crisis, unfortunately, many have simply stopped praying. For sure the devil has done everything possible to fill our lives with distractions. Many have fallen into addictions and despair. Jesus is saying, "do not give up." Speaking through the prophet Joel, God says, "Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God."
Return to God. Return to prayer. I want to thank those who have faithfully prayed these past twelve months: maybe rising early to pray the rosary or to slowly read a Scripture passage. Some have come before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. We have kept our church open during the pandemic and many have come to spend some time in the chapel, to visit Jesus. And of course the greatest prayer, what you are doing now, the Eucharist, Jesus' self-offering to the Father.
During Lent Jesus calls us to combine prayer with fasting. He doesn't say "if you fast" but "when you fast". Fasting can be as simple as abstaining from a favorite food - or it can be more complicated, like the Daniel Fast.
Prayer combined with fasting has power. There's something else: almsgiving, generosity. You know there have been winners and losers in this pandemic. It's easy to fall into envy and resentment. Much better though to focus on blessings God has given and how we can share time, abilities and financial resources. Our parish income has declined during this pandemic. At the same time parishioners whom God has blessed have shared their blessings. We do depend on your generosity as do other groups like St. Vincent de Paul, Knights of Columbus and Mary Bloom Center.
So what's the way the forward - the road to recovery? Well, we are in a spiritual battle. We'll hear more this Sunday when we see Jesus in the desert tempted by the devil. To engage in that spiritual battle, like Jesus we need prayer, fasting and generosity. That's the way forward, that's the road to recovery.
Once again from the prophet Joel, "Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning..." And as St. Paul tells us, "Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation."
Spanish Version (Word document)
From Archives (Ash Wednesday Homilies):
Homilies for First Sunday of Lent ("Temptation Sunday"):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Kurt Nagel
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru