The First Sunday in Lent (Year C)

“Lent, A Spiritual New Year”

A sermon by Dinushka De Silva, Diaconal Intern

Today is the First Sunday of Lent. I have heard of the various things people are giving up. Many people have shared with me they are giving up chocolate, meat, dairy, sugar, carbohydrates. Sounds like a good KETO diet.

One colleague of mine looked at me disdainfully as I had bacon on Ash Wednesday. She was having no meat for the week.

I will be honest with you. I rarely give up meat or food, especially cheesecake, for Lent. People have shared their various views on my “Lack of Lenting”.

My staunch Roman Catholic father looks at me with great judgment and says I should be eating fish now as the only meat. He says I need to lose a few pounds anyway so why not do the work for myself and my Lord.

SHEEESH! That’s a lot of pressure.

We are expected to sacrifice and repent for our sins while Jesus himself sacrificed for us. The reality is that what Jesus sacrificed is wholly different than meat, cheese, and carbohydrates.

I highly doubt my bacon eating on Ash Wednesday will help me to better express my faith and devotion to Jesus.

For my father, though, it helps him to think about his faith, to think about what Jesus gave up. It helps him build a reflective space during the Lenten season to be grateful for what he does have in his life.

For me Lent is a time for continued penance and prayer. I have to take a harder look at the mirror and reflect about what I could have done better. This season for me is my actual New Year.

A New Year that begins with accepting “I am from dust and to dust I shall return.” A New Year that begins with humbling myself to my God. A New Year that reminds me I have been formed from the Earth and God’s breath. I am not the Creator but the creation.

Beginning this New Year, is about valuing all that God has created, all that God has given me, all that is good in myself and in the world and acknowledging areas of improvement. It is a year I take what needs fixing and try to apply God’s tools to mending it.

Yes, I can express this by giving up certain foods and I can express this by loving others more, by giving more, by taking time to see the needs of the world.

This year, instead of spending my weekly $25 budgeted coffee and lunch money on coffee and lunch, I will take coffee and lunch from my house and spend that $25 on a different charity every week.

Right now I feel called to donate to Ukraine, Afghanistan, and a colleague of mine who just found out she has breast cancer.

Perhaps giving up that $25 will mean I have less in my pockets, but I hope more in my heart.

I also reflected upon hearing the “confessions” of some of my patients for their mistakes and sins, and realized I can confess each day of the week to God or to clergy or to a trusted friend what mistakes I’ve made daily. I might call up Jane or Ginnie even to help me confess.

Perhaps I will write them down first and say maybe…

MONDAY – “Today Lord God I was deeply angry at the man who wanted to change my schedule of visits and have me work on the weekend. Forgive me for blatantly talking behind his back and teasing him to others and judging him.”

TUESDAY – “Oh Lord forgive me, I lied to myself when I told myself I could have several pieces of candy despite the fact my blood sugar this morning was bad.”

These are examples of some of my foolish acts in the past. They may not seem like such a big deal, but they are poor behavior and treatment of others and of myself. I know it is wrong to talk behind someone’s back even if they can’t hear because God loves the man who changed my schedule even if I can’t love him in that moment. I can feel annoyed but I don’t need to knock him down in front of others, behind his back.

And what about candy, eating some can’t be that bad right? Well maybe it’s not an atrocious sin, but my Diabetes is out of control. I am close to being on insulin and I have three children to live this life for. I have a bad genetic history with an uncle dying at 38 from a heart attack.

A few pieces of candy is harmless to someone whose blood sugar is stable. It is not harmless to me. And it is irresponsible of me to do this when I must think of family.

There are worse examples of what I have done in my past, but Lent reminds me that God still sacrificed for me…FOR ME…FOR YOU, no matter what we have done to others and to ourselves. God believes we can always, ALWAYS be reconciled to Him/Her again.

God will sacrifice Himself on the cross so that we can know what unconditional love feels like and so we can have eternal life and not simply be “dust” anymore.

And all we have to do is believe God, be honest with Him/Her. Show God our scars, our mistakes, be humble and ask forgiveness and allow ourselves to know God will provide us with a NEW YEAR of NEW LIFE.

Recently I came across an article about Lent written by James Neal from the Enid News & Eagle, an Oklahoma news site. His words really moved me and made me reclaim Lent as a NEW YEAR and a time of transformation.

James compares the journey of the butterfly to the power of transformation and the power of Lent.

James writes,

“If you ever want to see one of the miracles of everyday life, you need look no further than the transformation of a humble caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly.

The lowly worm spends its early days stuffing itself with food, with no thought to its future purpose. When it is time for transformation, though, the caterpillar shifts gears. It quits consuming — it sheds itself of this world and seeks solitude.

Once it has found a safe place, the caterpillar literally goes within itself. It wraps itself within a cocoon, and then dissolves itself into an amorphous soup that bears no resemblance to caterpillar or butterfly. Special clusters of cells, ordered from the time the soon-to-be butterfly was an egg, reorder the soup into the wings, antennae, body and organs of its new creation.

When it comes time for the butterfly to emerge, it cannot be helped out of its cocoon. The struggle to push its way out of the cocoon finishes the formation of its wings. Without the struggle, the butterfly would never fly. When the work is done, the butterfly emerges as something of a higher order, and infinitely more beautiful than it had been. What had once crawled at our feet, below our gaze, now soars, drawing our eyes upward.

This path to transformation is instructive for us as we continue our spiritual journey through Lent. Like the caterpillar, we now face the time for transformation. It’s time to put aside the things of this world that stand between us and our higher purpose. Once we’ve set aside our sins, stripped ourselves of whatever is holding us back spiritually, we are prepared to go within, into the ultimate solitude.”

COLUMN: Lent calls us to the path of transformation | Columns |

James’s article is such a beautiful description of what Lent can help us to do for ourselves. James reminds me that it is worth the reflection, the time of penance, so that we may deepen our relationship with God. So that we may allow ourselves renewal and transformation.

What is God calling each of us to reflect about?

What acts and thoughts are a part of our personal transformation during this Lenten season?

What is truly keeping us from soaring and being our best selves?

Lord God guide us into deep reflection. Lord God show us our NEW SPIRITUAL YEAR and all the ways of transformation this Lenten season can bring. Amen.