These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.
Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Then Jesus said to all, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Lk 9:22-25)
The real test of Lent is the daily following of the Lord as Saint Richard of Chichester (1197-1253) said long ago: To see thee more clearly, to love thee more dearly, to follow thee more nearly, day by day.
Ash Wednesday, February 22, 2023
Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart. (Joel 2:12-18)
Whatever we might think that Lent is about, God is interested in just one thing, our hearts. The great preparation for the celebration of the Paschal Triduum begins today. It is not a self-centered question of human will power (as in what will I give up for Lent?), but rather what will bring me closer to love of neighbor. My mom, Norma Torp Boyd, (1927-1996), was born on this day—she would have been 96. Being a nurse, she taught me to care for others “with my whole heart.”
Tuesday, Week VII, Ordinary Time (Mardi Gras Day)
My child, when you come to serve the LORD, stand in justice and fear, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, incline your ear and receive the word of understanding, undisturbed in time of adversity. Wait on God, with patience. (Sir 2:1-11)
When you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials—what Wisdom! Today is Mardi Gras Day, literally Fat Tuesday. My home town, Mobile, Alabama, is where Mardi Gras celebrations began in the United States. In the days before refrigeration it was necessary to prepare for the coming of Lent (Ash Wednesday is tomorrow!) by using up all the animal products (carne) that could not be consumed during Lent (in which there were no baptisms, no weddings, no parties). So the time of carnival came about as a practical time of merriment to prepare for the great encounter with God.
Monday, Week VII, Ordinary Time
All wisdom comes from the LORD. (Sirach 1:1-10)
The Book of Sirach begins with this beautiful poem about Wisdom . . . and the book that follows will be full of pithy sayings, practical everyday advice and more poems about Wisdom. But our continuous reading of this influential book of Jewish Wisdom Literature will be interrupted by the great seasons of Lent and Easter.
VII Sunday, Ordinary Time
Brothers and sisters: Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Cor 3:16-23)
Sometimes we forget that the early church did not have buildings . . . we met in one another’s homes. So when Saint Paul says to the Corinthians ´You are the temple of God´ he was actually talking seriously and joking at the same time. While the ancient city of Corinth had a magnificent temple of the god Apollo, the tiny Christian community had to gather at home, but as the Apostle tells them, ´the Spirit of God dwells in you.´
Saturday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, February 18
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. By faith Noah, warned about what was not yet seen, with reverence built an ark for the salvation of his household. Through this, he condemned the world and inherited the righteousness that comes through faith. (Heb 11:1-7)
This selection from the praise of the ancestors in the faith ends with the praise of Noah and the building of the Ark. Faith is not so much about propositions to be believed, but rather faith is centered on actions. Like Noah, we are called to action. As the Mother of Jesus reminds the waiters at the Wedding Feast of Cana: “Do whatever my Son tells you to do.”
Friday, Week VI, Ordinary Time
Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth." Then the LORD said: Let us then go down and there confuse their language, so that one will not understand what another says." Thus the LORD scattered them from there all over the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the speech of all the world. (Gen 11:1-9)
The story of the Tower of Babel is not an invective against urbanism . . . rather it is a story about those who want to make a name for themselves rather than accepting the name God has given them, “My people.”