2Chronicles 36:14-16; 19-23; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21
4th Sunday of Lent
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God.”
This week, spend some time pondering these words from the letter to the Ephesians attributed to St. Paul. Most especially, think about the words, “Grace” and “Gift”. We are encouraged to DO a lot of things during Lent based on the three pillars of Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. And those Lenten practices do serve an important role to the extent that they open us up to and connect us more closely with that world outside of ourselves.
Yet no matter how many times I pray, no matter how many acts of self-denial I perform, no matter if I give all of my wordly possessions away to the poor and devote all of my time to acts of charity – I will not have come even one iota closer to earning Salvation. Not because I am a “wiggly worm, a wiggly, wiggly worm” in the words of Fred Flinstone. But because I never had to earn it. Salvation is all Grace and Gift.
Well, if I can’t earn salvation, I can certainly celebrate it. Maybe invite a few friends along – dare I think, even an enemy? – to celebrate with me. In fact, I believe the true indication of how meaningful a Lent I’ve experienced is how able I am to celebrate the joy of the Easter season. Will I celebrate Easter with a greater sense of happiness and well being this year than last? Are my acts of prayer , fasting and almsgiving a means by which I am allowing myself to be emptied so that God might fill me with ever more Grace? Or a a container within which I hoard my meager scraps of grace and keep it away from the grubby hands of the world?
Jim Philipps (Third Millennium Pilgrim)
Patricia Leonard and I are leading two Lenten retreats this year – one on Monday nights at St. James parish in Seaford, NY and one on Wednesday nights at St Frances de Chantal parish in Wantagh , NY. Both begin at 7:30Pm and conclude between 8:30 -8:45 PM. Please come and pray with us if you are in the area.)