In a few short days Lent begins. What is this season about? For some people it means a restricted diet (no meat on Fridays) and deprivation from some of the little pleasures like sweets or alcohol (or coffee if you are really brave). Acquiring self-mastery through these self-denials is undoubtedly a very important part of the Lenten season - but not the only one.The next six weeks can be an excellent time to do a spiritual examination (much like our yearly physical). How is our relationship with the Lord? Am I setting aside time daily to pray? Is my prayer time distracted or perfunctory? Am I entering into His presence and experiencing God speaking into my life? What is taking up my discretionary time? Does watching sports and movies leave me little time for spiritual reading or visiting with old friends and family members? What are my priorities? How about my finances? Am I generous to those in need?
What is my response to those men and women holding signs at the street corners? Do I wonder what they did wrong to get into that position, or do I try to help them in some way (hint: some people buy $5 or $10 McDonald’s gift cards to give away; others have boxes of granola bars open and ready to give them something to eat)? The most significant thing we can do revolves around reconciliation—both with God and the people in our lives. Lent is the perfect time to exam our conscience and prepare to make a good confession. We’re all aware that many Catholics only rarely, if at all, make use of the Sacrament of Confession. Don’t miss this opportunity. You can look at a site like http://www.beginningcatholic.com/catholic-examination-of-conscience for a fairly detailed list of possible sins. Don’t be surprised at how many might actually apply.
And then there is the even more difficult task of reconciling with anyone with whom you may have had a conflict. We know deep down that God will always forgive us, but we’re not so sure about that person with whom we haven’t spoken in a while. But what if they’re not interested in being reconciled? I like St Paul’s advice: “If it is possible on your part, be at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). That first qualifications St Paul recognizing that perhaps not everyone wants to be reconciled. But if you’ve done your best to make peace, then that is all that is required of you.
In the Eastern Churches, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday is called “Forgiveness Sunday.” That is when the priest goes around to everyone in the village asking their forgiveness for anything he may have done throughout the year to offend them. Not only does he clear his conscience, but he sets the example for his flock.
And while I have only been here for 7 months, I know that there are plenty of things that, wittingly or not, I have done to offend you, the faithful flock of Our Lady of Mt Carmel. I have made some pastoral decisions that have not always been very wise or patient. I have spoken in ways that may not have seemed respectful of the ways and traditions of OLMC.
For those of you who are familiar with the four temperaments, I am a strong choleric, which means I am task -oriented and focused on getting things accomplished. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always translate into being patient with people. And of course, there is the business of not being able to remember everyone’s names. On this last charge, I plead guilty but with diminished culpability (or is that capacity?).
Please take advantage of the opportunities we will be providing for your spiritual growth- Ash Wednesday, daily Mass, Friday Stations of the Cross, our Lenten Mission and confessions. May God bless you and your family during this Holy Season in preparation for the Great Season that follows.
May God bless you and your family,
Fr Charlie Goraieb