Wednesday, February 13, 2013

“Routine” Faith?

“…Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.” Matthew 21: 31b-32

These are the words of Jesus at the end of a parable about a father who had two sons. The father asked the first son to go work in the vineyard and he said no, but then changed his mind and went. The second son said yes right away, but then never went. Jesus then asked, “Which one did the will of his father?” Of course it was the first.

A couple years in September of 2011, Pope Benedict XVI was in his home country of Germany for a pastoral visit and during one of the large Masses he celebrated this was the Gospel reading for the day. His homily at that Mass was very powerful and challenging and I think one part of it is appropriate for an Ash Wednesday reflection. Speaking of this parable he said,

“Translated into the language of the present day, this statement (of Jesus about the tax collectors and prostitutes) might sound something like this: agnostics, who are constantly exercised by the question of God, those who long for a pure heart but suffer on account of their sin, are closer to the Kingdom of God than believers whose life of faith is “routine” and who regard the Church merely as an institution, without letting it touch their hearts, or letting the faith touch their hearts.”

He went on to say, “These words should make all of us stop and reflect, in fact they should disturb us.”

So how is your faith life? Has it become routine? Is being Catholic just another part of your identity that skims the surface of your soul but rarely penetrates into the depths of your heart? Is Jesus someone you know? Is He your best friend, your confidant, your rock, your fortress, your passion, your all and all? Is your relationship with Him the motivating factor in all areas of your life?

Have you ever allowed God to move from being a concept in your brain to a Person dwelling in your heart?? Has the Church ever been a Mother to you, a safe place, a place of community, love, security and refuge or merely another corporate institution? Or perhaps at one point your faith life was passionate and real but has lost its luster?

Well welcome to Lent. Lent is about breaking out of the “routine”. It is about going back to the beginning. It is a “do over”. It is rediscovering that the Creator of the universe considers you His beloved and His greatest creation. It is about being immersed in His mercy. It is about emptying ourselves in order to be filled with all that is good, pure, holy and beautiful. It is about getting our priorities straight. It is about taking the time to develop a personal relationship with Jesus. It is about allowing Him to be the center of our hearts and the foundation we build our lives upon. May we use these next 40 days to break from the “routine” and allow the faith to touch our hearts; to change our hearts.

Dear Jesus, I know I am a sinner in need of Your mercy. Give me the grace I need to break from any “routines” that limit my relationship with You or keep You from fully entering into my heart this Lent. Amen.

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