Fr. Richard's Sunday Homily, February 11, 2018
Sunday of Cheesefare
The Time That God Has Given Us

Epistle: Romans 13:11 to 14:4  
Gospel: Matthew 6:14-21  

It is a very strange thing, it seems to me, the way in which we sometimes talk about time. It is almost as though we think of time as something we can possess. We use expressions such as “Do you have time?” or “Don’t waste my time.” But time is not something we can possess, it is only something that we can use, that we can live in, but it is never something we own. As you may have read, my older brother has brain cancer and he recently told me “I don’t know how much longer I have to live.” And of course, that is a very serious and sober reality that puts a sharp focus on time. He doesn’t know how much longer he has to live. But the truth is neither do I know how much longer I have to live, and neither do you. We are not the masters of time; the Lord God is. God has provided time for us, and we do not know how much, so it is always good for us to use time as well as we can. Our tendency is to live as though we are the masters of time, but it is not so. We can only master the time that is provided for us by God.

This is why, as the Body of Christ, the Church helps us to master the time that God has given us, and one kind of help is the Great and Holy Fast. We are called to live in this time period in such a way that our souls are enriched and we become more like our Savior, that we become more holy, more human, more like the true children our Father has adopted and called His own. Lent is time given to us to help us grow up into the men and women and children that we were born to be. Probably all of us procrastinate at least sometimes. But we should never procrastinate in living our lives to the fullest, because we do not own time. Lent is a time to get real about our lives.

In physics the great puzzle of how to understand the universe involves theories about time and space. Lent is the time coming up for us, but what about space? Space? I know that we need to make space, make room for prayer in our lives, and for even more prayer and/or better prayer. We cannot love someone unless we spend some time with them, unless we communicate with them, unless we live in a relationship with them, talk to them and listen to them and pay attention to their presence in our lives. Lent is a time to make room for prayer. Lent is a time to USE time for prayer to grow in the love of God. Loving God in prayer and being loved by God in prayer may or may not produce any kind of emotional feeling at any given time, the same as for the love we have for other people. The Lord already loves us and He cannot love us more, but unless we put ourselves before Him in prayer we cannot be touched by that love nor can we grow in love for Him.

Make room for fasting. Why fasting? First of all, because God’s people have always fasted at times and seasons, so we follow their example. Secondly, fasting truly touches us at the central part of our lives. Mankind disobeyed God through an act of eating in the Garden, and so we also voluntarily limit the food we eat in order to show that we are dependent on God, not on our own ability to provide for ourselves and to do as we wish. It is a powerful reminder to us that we do not live by bread alone, as Satan tempted Jesus to think. There are only a few days and a few ways we are by law required to fast. But let us decide to do more than that as we are able to do. Many see fasting only as a denial of something that is good, as a snakey character once hissed in Paradise, but true fasting is always an act of faith. Make room for fasting.

Make room for almsgiving. I dare say that most of us have more stuff than we know what to do with. Stuff we really need. Stuff we sometimes use and find helpful. And then just stuff. Stuff that is excess, superfluous, unnecessary. It’s stuff that kind of comforts us, like the man who decided to put up more barns to store his grain, so he could relax and live well for many years, but he did not own time. We are often tempted to think there’s not enough for us AND them, but that’s not true. We don’t need all we have by any stretch of our imagination, so let’s think about how we should be giving alms this Lent and take comfort not in gaining more stuff, but in helping those who do NOT have enough stuff, even sometimes to live in basic human dignity. Make room for almsgiving.

And finally make room for silence. We are bombarded constantly by noise and distractions all the time, day after day. It is very difficult to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit when we are distracted by so many other sounds and sights. Not to mention the noise in our own heads which is the most difficult to try and quiet. But if we make an effort every day to find some room for quiet and allow an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to guide us, even if we can’t totally quiet our interior noise, He will use that room to teach and strengthen us in faith. Make room for quiet.

A last thought: I believe sometimes we fail to take time and make room during Lent because as we struggle to do some things different or more or better in our spiritual lives we start to see how very weak and miserable we can be as Christians. And seeing that weakness in fasting, or prayer, or almsgiving we can decide to just avoid doing any Lenten work, and then we don’t have to see our weaknesses, and we can just move along as we have been doing and avoid an effort that might show us to be less than we would like to think that we are. If I just move on in my usual way I won’t have the problem of seeing and thinking about what I ought to be doing, and how I ought to be living. But how much better for us our weaknesses and ask the Lord to strengthen and heal them and become who we ought to be!

There is time given to us to make room for prayer, fasting, almsgiving and silence. May we use it as well as we can and give thanks to God for all things.