Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Spiritual AND Religious

It is common nowadays for people to describe themselves as "spiritual and not religious." We all have friends who say that about themselves or have seen the phrase written on bumper stickers. Some of us here today might even describe ourselves that way.

But what do people mean when they claim to be "spiritual but not religious"?

Generally, they mean that they have a relationship with God or with a "higher power" without belonging to a church or adhering to any dogmas or creeds. In fact, they claim to have respect for all religions, picking and choosing from each the teachings that suit their lifestyle and the  "god of their understanding". For such people, religion is not a shared, communal reality, but a personal, interior experience.

As with all fallacies, there is a kernel of truth in what these self-described spiritual people believe. Religion is primarily a matter of the heart and of the spirit. Because each of us is created in God's image and likeness, we all carry within ourselves the ability to hear his voice speaking to us through our conscience. Our hearts were made to love God above all things. When we look within, we already find a basic understanding of God and his plan for our lives. God created us to be spiritual.  

We hear this reality described in today's first reading. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God promises the people of Israel that he is about to establish a new covenant with them. That is, he is about to invite them into a new relationship of faithful love with him. Unlike the old covenant which was written on the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments,  the new covenant will be written on their hearts. As Jeremiah describes it, no one will need to be taught the ways of the Lord because God will reveal himself to the heart of each believer. This is what we commonly mean by the word "spiritual" - to have an interior, heart-felt love of God.

However, God is talking about something more than a natural desire or ability to know him. Rather, this personal relationship with him is a gift. It is not something that is ours through birth, but through baptism. God's Spirit who writes this new covenant in our heart, who speaks to our spirit about the ways of truth and love, is given to us through baptism and faith. The Holy Spirit is not something we can receive just through personal reflection or meditation. We receive the Holy Spirit when we become members of a community of faith. We receive the Holy Spirit by practicing religion.

Jesus gives us more insight into what it means to be genuinely spiritual in today's gospel. Andrew and Philip approach Jesus to tell him about some Greeks who want to meet him. It is the week of Passover, close to the time when he would suffer and die. His upcoming death is weighing heavily on his heart. His "hour" is approaching, and he takes the opportunity to instruct the disciples and us about what it means to be a true follower. It means having our hearts set on eternal life. And the only way to enter into that heavenly life is to hate our earthly life. The only way to reach the glory of heaven is through death. Jesus say, "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit." And so the person who loves Jesus is willing to follow him when it is inconvenient, when it is painful and when it is costly. The truly spiritual person who has his or her heart set on the things of heaven will follow Jesus even to the cross. The person with genuine insight into spiritual matters realizes that Jesus cannot be separated from his cross nor can eternal life be separated from death to self.

The words of Jesus are very different from the language we hear from the "spiritual but not religious" crowd. For them, being spiritual is not a way of dying to self but of enriching oneself. It is not a way of glorifying God but of growing in self-esteem and self-fulfillment. It is not a way of seeking the things of heaven but of having a better life on earth. It is not about knowing God as he has revealed himself in Scripture and in Church teaching so that we can humbly serve others but about having secret knowledge that gives one a sense of superiority over others. This so-called "New Age" spirituality is really something very old - trying to achieve the glory of heaven without the shame of the cross.

We shouldn't judge such people. Very often, they are well-meaning and generous. At the same time, we don't want to fall into their error and miss out on the abundance of life that Jesus is offering us. His words are clear to all those who seek him: "If anyone would follow me, he must take up his cross." The deepest desire of our heart is union with God through Jesus. It is natural that we fear being ridiculed by others for practising our religion in a whole-hearted way. It is also natural that we fear what we would have to give up to follow Jesus. But as the Holy Spirit reveals to our hearts more and more the love of God and the truth of the gospel, those fears diminish because we are beginning to taste what our spirits long for and  everything else seems less important by comparison. When we have the real thing, we will not settle for cheap imitations!

We are here today because we are both spiritual and religious. We do not want to deny ourselves the experience of worship with other believers. We want to learn from the words of Scripture and the teaching of the Church. We want to benefit from the wisdom of the believers who have gone before us. We want to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist. This abundance of spiritual riches is ours through baptism and faith. It is a taste of heaven given to us who have decided to pick up our cross and follow Jesus.  

Monday, March 19, 2018

Prayer To Saint Joseph

Oh, Saint Joseph, we venerate you
As a model of workers and patron of families
We acknowledge you as a friend to the poor
Consoler of the afflicted and exiled
The saint of divine providence on earth
You represented the universal goodness of the Heavenly Father
Intercede for us, Saint Joseph, patron of families
Assist us through your prayers
To grow stronger in our love for one another
And to become more pleasing to God
Jesus and Mary were entrusted to your care
Grant us what we truly need
To be always faithful to one another
And servants of each other's needs. Amen

Saturday, March 17, 2018

It All Begins With Love

It all begins with love.

Out of love, God created the universe with all its wonders. He wanted to give us a world which would provide for all our needs. Reflecting on the vast oceans, the towering mountains and the lush rainforests, we glimpse the power and goodness of our Heavenly Father. The shear diversity of life on our planet is a reflection of the beautiful imagination of our God.

Out of love, God created each one of us. No matter what the circumstances of our birth or our family, we were all meant by God to exist. Our soul was created directly by our Heavenly Father at the time of our conception. At that moment, He knew us, loved us and gave us a purpose which only we could fulfill. No one of us is an accident. No one of us was not meant to be here. Rather, we were created to experience God’s love in this life and to enjoy eternal life with Him in heaven. As Saint Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians, “For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.”

Out of love, God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us. Because of our sins, we had rejected His offer of love. As we hear in today’s first reading from the Second Book of Chronicles, “the people added infidelity to infidelity.” God sent His prophets to call the people back to Him but, as we also hear in the first reading, “...they mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings and scoffed at his prophets.” In one last effort to reach us, God sent Jesus. His death paid the debt we owed because of our sinful behavior and made it possible that, with a clean slate, we could experience salvation and eternal life. Saint Paul tells us in the second reading, “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ.”

Salvation and eternal life are God’s gifts to us in Christ. No one of us deserves it. It is not a reward for the good we have done. It is not a result of our sincere intentions. Rather, it is simply God’s free choice motivated by His great love. As Saint Paul goes on to tell us in today’s second reading, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.”

The great love God has shown us in giving us this vast and beautiful world, in creating us and in saving us through Jesus Christ requires a response from us. How are we to reply to our Heavenly Father’s invitation? The proper response is faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that “Faith is man’s response to God, who reveals himself and gives himself to man...” [26]. Jesus tells us in today’s gospel that He came so that “everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

Responding with faith means believing that God loves us. It requires accepting the forgiveness of sins and gift of salvation that is ours through Jesus Christ.  When we have faith, we make the hope of eternal life the driving force of our lives here on earth.

Like salvation, faith is a pure gift of God. It was first given to us in baptism and its roots ran deeper in us through the other sacraments we received. Like other virtues, the more we put it to use by praying, struggling against temptation, studying and doing good, the stronger it becomes. If our faith seems weak or even if we think we have no faith, all we need to do is ask God and He will give it to us. He will be happy to give it to us because His great desire is that we enjoy all the gifts He has for us. Also, if we desire faith, it is because God’s Holy Spirit is already preparing our hearts to receive it.

As a response to God’s love, faith is more than saying, “I believe”. Imagine professing your undying love to the man or woman of your dreams and having him or her say in return, “I believe you love me.” Wouldn’t that break your heart? What you want to hear instead is, “I love you too.” And that is exactly what God wants to hear, not only that we believe in Him but that we love Him in return.

The fact is, if we do not love God in return, then we do not really believe. If we do not want  to learn more about Jesus through reading the Scriptures, then we do not really have faith in Him as the Son of God. If we do not desire to receive Him in the Eucharist, then we do not really believe He came down from heaven. If we do not love our neighbor as ourselves, then we do not really believe that all of us are made in His image and likeness. Love is faith translated into action.

Like faith, love is a gift of God. If it seems as though our hearts have grown cold, all we need to do is ask our Heavenly Father to rekindle the fire of love within us. We were created to love. In love we find our deepest meaning and fulfillment. Because He loves us, God wants nothing more than to set our hearts ablaze with charity. And, if we desire it, it is already God’s Holy Spirit preparing our hearts to receive it.

The good news is that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” The question is, do you believe? And, do you live out your belief by loving others? If so, we are already experiencing eternal life. If not, all we need to do is ask God for it.

It all begins and ends with love.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Faith That Saves

The great Christian writer C. S. Lewis is one of the most influential believers of the last century. His many books including Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain and The Abolition of Man, have helped millions of Christians to understand their faith better in the light of modern challenges.

Because of the wide influence he has enjoyed it can be difficult for us to believe that at one time he was an atheist. Though he was raised as a Christian in the Anglican Communion, he abandoned it during his years as a university student and then as a professor. As happens to so many people, once he became successful he forgot how much he needed God.

Then, one day, he was speaking with a colleague, a history professor whom he admired a great deal,  about the New Testament. His friend shocked him by saying, “You know, it looks as though all the events detailed in the New Testament really happened.” Up to that time, C. S. Lewis considered it all to be a myth like those of the ancient Greeks and Romans. But now he was hearing a highly educated and learned man claiming that it all really happened.

As Lewis thought about what his colleague had said, a question kept coming to his mind. Is Jesus really who He claimed He was? Is He really the Son of God? If He is not the Son of God then He must be a liar or He must be delusional like those with mental illness who say they are Napoleon. But if He really is who He says He is, if He really is the Son of God, then He must be listened to and obeyed. If He really is the Messiah, then one must drop everything to follow Him. And it was right there and then that C. S. Lewis became a believer in Jesus and dedicated His life to helping others come to believe in the Son of God.

That is the question that God poses to all of us here today. Do we believe that Jesus is the Son of God come down from heaven to save the world? Do we believe He is who He says He is?

If we do not believe - if we claim that Jesus was a liar or a lunatic - then coming to Mass is a big waste of time. But if we do believe - if we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior of the World - then coming to Mass is not enough. We have to drop everything and follow Him. We have to learn about every word He spoke because it is the very word of God which teaches us how to live in a way that pleases Him. We have to strive to live according to His word in everything we do. If Jesus is who He says He is, we have to dedicate our whole lives to serving Him.

When we come to understand who Jesus is and when we decide to give our lives over to Him, we call it receiving the gift of faith. Faith as we understand it, is more than a simple belief that God exists. Many people say they believe in God, but few of them live according to His word and the teaching of His Church. Merely believing that God exists cannot save us. As Saint James tells us, even the demons believe that God exists. Rather the faith that saves us is believing that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died to free us from our sins, that He rose from the dead to give us the promise of everlasting life and that He established the Church to pass on this good news of salvation.

How do we know if we have such faith? The only way to really know is to take a hard look at or lives and ask ourselves if what we believe is having an impact in the choices we make and the way we act. The faith that saves us is one that makes a real difference in our lives causing us not only to think differently but to act differently. We will have a commitment to prayer and to receiving the Sacraments. We will have a heart that is sensitive to the needs of the people around us. If we truly believe in Jesus, our lives should be markedly different from that of those who do not believe.

If after examining ourselves it is clear to us that we do not have enough faith - and who of us hear can really say that we do? - we need not be alarmed. Saint Paul teaches us in today’s second reading that faith, first and foremost, is a gift. It is not something we earn. It is not something we have a right to. It is freely given by God. And what is the best way to receive a gift? Simply by asking for it. To receive the gift of faith, all we have to do is ask for it and wait for God to grant it to us. Because He loves us and wants to save us, He will not deny it to us.

We are gathered here today because we have come to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. We have given our lives to him and wish to receive the power to live in the Spirit of His resurrection. We will stand now to profess our faith in One God, in Jesus Christ His Only Son our Lord, and in the Holy Spirit who is Lord and Giver of Life. Let us ask our Heavenly Father that our profession of faith not be empty words we recite but a way of life we commit to with all our hearts, minds, soul and strength proclaiming to all the world with our deeds that Jesus is the Son of God.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Drawing Closer To Jesus


There is no doubt that Jesus made an impression on everyone he met. Because of the power of his words, some left their jobs and their families to follow him. Others, however, were offended by the special relationship he claimed to have with the Father and turned their backs on him refusing to listen despite the powerful signs he performed. Others were afraid of him. They feared that he would incite the people to rebel against the Roman occupation and create instability in Jerusalem. We will hear in the upcoming weeks how these people would eventually convince the Romans to crucify him.  

There is another class of people, however. There were those who didn't know quite what to make of Jesus. They were moved by the beauty and power of his words. They were amazed by the miracles and signs he performed. Yet they were just not ready to follow him. Such a person was Nicodemus whom we read about in today's gospel.

Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a man with much power and influence. He considered himself an authority on the Jewish Law and a teacher of the people. Like the other Pharisees, he would have felt some responsibility to guard the people from error. And so he would have been especially cautious of Jesus. Nonetheless, he felt drawn by his words. So he visits Jesus at night in secret to see for himself what he is all about.  He is not ready to become a follower, but he is not ready to turn his back on him either.

Jesus welcomes Nicodemus. He does not turn him away because he is skeptical and unsure. He does not tell him to come back when he has more faith. Rather Jesus builds on the faith he already has and challenges him to recognize the gift of salvation and eternal life which he is being offered.

There are two parts to Jesus' message to Nicodemus.

First, he speaks to him about the great love of God. Jesus was sent into the world by the Father, not to condemn it, but to bring eternal life to all those who would believe in him. God's desire is not to find fault with us but to draw us into a relationship of love with him. For this reason, Jesus would be lifted up on the cross as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert to bring forgiveness and healing.

Second, that gift of eternal life is available to anyone who believes in Jesus. Those who believe are the ones who are willing to step out of the darkness of sin and falsehood and into the light of faith. Remember that Nicodemus is visiting Jesus at night, when it's dark, so that no one will see him. Jesus is challenging him to step into the light and not be ashamed to be counted as one of his followers. It will mean leaving behind the prestige and power he has as a leading Pharisee. It will mean being rejected and ridiculed by many of his friends. But, more importantly, if he can find the courage to step into the light, it will mean being a friend with Jesus, seeing his great works, and knowing the Father's love in a way he could not otherwise imagine.

The gospel reading does not tell us how Nicodemus responded. We presume that he slipped away into the night to ponder Jesus' message to him. We won't hear about him again until later in John's gospel when he argues for a fair trial for Jesus and at the crucifixion when he, along with Joseph of Arimathea, helps to place his body in the tomb.

There is a little bit of Nicodemus in each of us. Most of us have an admiration for Jesus and are moved by his words. Yet there is still a part of us that wants to hold back. We are not ready to follow Jesus all the way. We fear what others will say about us if we live our faith wholeheartedly. Or we aren't ready to give up some sinful behaviors to embrace the full message of the gospel. Others of us can't get over the shame we feel about our past life and aren't ready to welcome the Father's promise and gift of forgiveness. Each of us, in some way, prefers to meet Jesus in the dark where our ugly faults and failures can be hidden from sight.
These forty days of Lent are all about stepping out of darkness into light. Through prayer and penance, we are to examine our conscience and bring to God our weakness and sin so that his forgiveness and grace can begin to fill up the emptiness of our spirit. There is still time for those of us who haven't yet gone to confession to do so before Holy Week. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is an important first step away from the darkness. We reveal our sins to a priest so that we can be freed from the burden of shame and embrace God's love and forgiveness. Then we can begin to live again in the joy and peace of God's Spirit.

In today's second reading, Saint Paul reminds us that God is rich in mercy. We need not linger in the shadows of fear and shame because there is a forgiving God who waits for us in the light. It was for this reason that Jesus came - to draw all people to himself. At this Eucharist, Jesus will be lifted up in the form of bread and wine for us to adore and to receive with gratitude and faith. The prayer, "My Lord and my God," will come to our lips as we gaze upon our Savior who is given to us as food. Let us ask that he ignite a fire within us so that we can take the light of his truth and love to those who continue to dwell in darkness. Then we will become what he has called us to be - a light for all the world. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

God's Law...Our Peace

God always gives His People what they need to know His will and to do it.

When He lead the Israelites out of Egypt and through the desert to the land He had promised them, He gave them a law which would guide their actions as a nation. This law would teach them how to live as His People so that they would be a shining light of goodness to other nations.

At the heart of this law is the Ten Commandments which we heard proclaimed in today’s first reading. And although they were first proclaimed to the people of Israel some five thousand years ago, they remain relevant to our society today if we want to be a people who do God’s will and live in peace with one another.

Down the ages, rabbis have taught us that the Ten Commandments have two tablets. The first tablet contains the first three commandments which have to do with our relationship to God. We are to serve no other gods than He, we are not to take His name in vain and we are to keep holy the Sabbath day. The second tablet contains the final seven commandments regulating our relationship with our neighbors. We are to respect their right to life, the sanctity of their marriages and families and, finally, their property.

The Ten Commandments teach us that the first step to leading an upright life and to building a just society is to fulfill our duty to God. When we put God first, everything else falls into place. If we acknowledge God as creator, then we will respect our neighbors because they are made in His image and likeness. We will also respect creation because it is His gift to us. Fulfilling our duty to God, then, is the foundation of any good society.

To fulfill our duty to God, then, we have to get rid of false idols as we are instructed to do by the first commandment: “I, the Lord am your God....You shall not have other gods beside me.” In Moses time, this commandment meant not worshiping the idols of the Egyptian and Canaanite peoples. The false gods of our times, however, are not as obvious as the carved idols of pagan cultures. Rather, they appear to us in hidden forms.

There are many examples of false gods in today’s world. However, one of the most powerful idols is money. Most crimes have money as the principal motivation. How many families are torn apart because of issues related to inheritances and finances? Making a god of money leads to corruption in government and injustice in the workplace. When money takes the place of God in society it leads to unjust distribution of wealth, poverty and, ultimately, social unrest. No matter how many regulations and laws we put in place to stop the corruption, those who serve wealth as their god always find ways around them. The injustice will continue until we put God at the center of our life as individuals and as a nation.

The second tablet of the Ten Commandments deals with our responsibilities to our neighbor. It begins with the fourth commandment: “Honor your father and your mother that you may have a long life in the land.” God makes it clear that the secret to a good life in the land He had promised them begins with the family. Marriage is to have pride of place and to be respected in the order that God established. It is the only institution that can unite children with the father and mother who brought them into the world by their love. In the family, children learn the meaning of respect, hard work and sacrifice for others.

Families are the foundation of a good society. When families are healthy, the community as a whole is healthy. When families are stable, then schools, businesses, churches and governments are also stable. Good families create good citizens.

We live in a world in which family life is under extreme pressure resulting in negative consequences throughout our society. At this point, the problem may seem too massive for any one of us to resolve. However, there is something each of us can do. By attending to the needs of our own families, we can strengthen society as a whole. That means being the best father and husband or wife and mother you can be. It means loving your children and nurturing them to the best of your ability. It means being a good and obedient son or daughter. Those small daily efforts to strengthen our families will have positive ripple effects throughout the society as a whole.

In today’s world, many families are experiencing pain and difficulty. If our family has been torn apart by divorce,  neglect or even abuse, it is not too late to repair the damage. The first step is to reach out to those members of our family we have not seen in years to ask forgiveness of those we have hurt and to forgive those who have hurt us. It can be awkward and painful. We may be afraid how they might react to us after so many years. However, making a connection, letting them know that we care, leads to healing. Our family may never be as close as it once was but it can be better than it is now. Most of the time it only takes one person to overcome his or her pride and to take the first step.

God wants us to live in peace with one another. He wants all of us to enjoy the natural resources of the world He created. The first step to lasting peace and justice in our world is to acknowledge Him alone as God and to refuse to put money, power or pleasure in His place. The second step is to protect and strengthen marriage and family life. These Ten Commandments, though carved in stone, still have relevance in today’s digital world because God’s word never passes away. If we put that word into practice, we will begin to see a world filled with justice, peace and goodwill.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Cleansing Injustice

Because Jesus is a human being as we are, we can expect to see the full range of human emotions in Him. When His friend Lazarus dies, we see Him weep. As He is about to be arrested in the garden, we see Him torn by anxiety. We see Him experience disappointment as He is betrayed by Judas and denied by Peter. We also see Him rejoice when people come to believe in Him.

And we see Him get angry.

Today’s gospel is one of the most perplexing in all of Scripture. It goes against our image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. We cannot understand how this gentle and humble man could fly into such a rage. How could Jesus who was perfectly sinless, act in such a seemingly violent manner?

A little information about the customs of the time might help us to understand better what made Jesus react as He did.

The Temple in Jerusalem was the center of all Jewish worship in Jesus’ day. It was there that the people offered sacrifices to thank God for some blessed event such as the birth of a child or a fruitful harvest. It was also where they went to ask for forgiveness of their sins. The animals used in those sacrifices were sheep, oxen and doves. Because many of the pilgrims to the Temple were traveling long distances, it was less expensive to buy the animals in Jerusalem than to have to bring them from their native land. Also the animals had to be perfect with no blemish. Imagine bringing an animal all the way to Jerusalem only to find out that, when it is examined at the Temple, it had an imperfection that would keep it from being used as a sacrifice? By buying the animal at the Temple, the pilgrims could be sure that they were without blemish.

As so frequently happens, those who sold animals at the Temple began to take advantage of the people coming to there by overcharging them. They would also bribe those who would examine the animals to make sure that any sheep, oxen or doves brought in from the outside would be deemed unworthy for the sacrifice. Then they would have to buy them from the Temple at the higher price. The same was true of the money changers who offered less in exchange for foreign coins than banks outside of the Temple.

This situation outraged Jesus. Hardworking people who made the sacrifice to come to Jerusalem for the feast to worship God were being taken advantage of by unscrupulous men. And He would stand for it no longer. He would not allow the poor to be exploited for profit or to be kept from worshipping in the Temple. So He did something about it. He put an end to the unjust situation and He called the authorities to task for their corrupt behaviour.

As we reflect on Jesus’ actions, there is a question which we should be asking ourselves. How do we react when we are faced with injustice? What do we do when our brothers and sisters are being taken advantage of? Do we speak up and try to do something about it? Or do we look the other way glad that it is happening to someone else and not to us?

In today’s world there is plenty of violence and injustice. We need only to look at the poor countries of our planet where millions are undernourished while rich countries spend billions of dollars on weight-loss diets. We need only to look at countries where ruthless dictators imprison and torture those who dare to speak up for human rights while those living in democracies barely show up to vote. In so many countries Christians are forbidden from worshiping in public and often killed during their services while we take our freedom to worship and practice our religion for granted. How has such inequality, injustice and intolerance been able to go on for so long? Simply because good people failed to get angry and speak up.

This is important for us to reflect on as we continue our journey through Lent. It is important for us to make sacrifices and practice self-control. But it is more important to help others, to better the lives of our brothers and sisters and to bring relief to those who suffer. God tells us this through the prophet Isaiah: “This is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly.... Setting free the oppressed.... Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.” Are our Lenten sacrifices making someone's life better or are they just a way for us to say that we met our religious obligation? Are our penances making us more sensitive to the needs of our neighbor or are they filling us with pride? These are very important questions for us to be asking ourselves during these days because Jesus makes it very clear that we will be judged by how we treat the poor who surround us.

It is natural for us when faced with the world’s problems to feel paralyzed. If politicians cannot fix hunger, poverty and war, what can we do? How can we make a difference? The simple answer is that we must start with the people around us. Who could use my help? Is there a sick person I could be visiting, a neighbor who could use a meal or a schoolmate who could use a friend? If we could just slow down, take our minds off our own problems for a minute and look around us, we would see people crying out for help. Whatever little we are able to do, even if it is just offering a prayer for that person, is much better than nothing. And God promises to multiply our efforts through the power of His Spirit making immense blessing come out of our good deeds.

In our world today there is plenty of anger but little action. Jesus has shown us the way and given us the power to transform the world through love. As He offered Himself to be the perfect sacrifice for sins, so let us offer ourselves to one another to relieve the burden of the oppressed and to bring relief to the suffering. That is the Lenten sacrifice that most pleases our Heavenly  Father. That is the true religion Jesus came to reveal. The world is counting on us to bring them nothing less than Jesus. Let us not keep Him to ourselves but share Him freely with a hurting world.