My Beloved Friends,
We are wrapping up the Epiphany House Blessings and home meetings. From January 6th until Ash Wednesday, every single person's home on our mailing list will have been visited by this priest. Every single one. A bold claim made possible by our fabulous organizers, hosts, the teens, drivers, and your warm welcome wherever I've gone. On top of that, I've blessed homes for folks who bought them from parishioners who never let us know they moved!!! It's funny to see the look in people's eyes when they see me chalk in hand, and they wonder "Who the hell is this guy?" It may not help that it is nighttime and I look like an overgrown bat. I get to explain the matter, and to date, only one person called the police on me! Sermon fodder for another occasion.
We turn together to another season of the year, our lives marked by retracing the life story of Christ in our own. Consider the opportunity of this Lent. Rather than a season of self-loathing, it might better be understood as a concerted focus on loving more dearly those we meet, known or new to us. Can sacrificial love be a discipline? A discipline is a deliberate training of mind and emotion and body, a rule of life to which we conform our behaviors and thoughts, and yes, our feelings. Sure, we respond to events, good and bad, but we get to choose how we frame our thinking about them. We can choose not to react to the moment. We can feel and experience and then consider a response. When I hit my thumb with a hammer, I hurt, but I don't have to waste a lot of time being angry at the hammer, or myself, or the circumstance that put me in the position of holding a hammer in the first place! Consider the hammer as a metaphor for the person who bothers you most today and you'll get my point.
Being a disciple of Christ is deliberate. We train ourselves for thoughtfulness so that fear does not own us, dread does not overwhelm us, anger does not win, and self-centered calculations are mediated by a sacrificial love authored and patterned after the Christ. It also means we practice such discipline even when others do not, especially when others do not. We practice the discipline for its own sake, with no expectation of changing someone else. The Church has a long and deep history of glorious sacrificial loving even in the shadows of an empire's oppression and civil decay. It doesn't matter the circumstance -- personal or cultural. We must love. It matters.
I invite you to keep a holy Lent in preparation for the renewal of your baptismal vows this Easter.
Love well and often.
Indeed: Love well and often.
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