There must always be a relationship between the gift and the recipient – there is no point in giving anyone a treasure he cannot use. A father would not give a boy with no talent for music a Stradivarius violin. Neither will God give to egocentrics those gifts and powers and energies that they never propose to put to work in the transformation of their lives and souls.
Fulton J. Sheen Lift Up Your Heart
The Liturgical Calendar can be something of pain. Thanks to the rather early date of Easter this year, while Christmas and Epiphany are very much still in our minds, and we have yet to celebrate Candlemas, the Feast of the Purification of Our Lady or the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, today we celebrate Septuagesima, or the fact that it is seventy days until Easter, or to put it another way, it is three weeks until we begin Lent, the period of fasting and repentance, akin to Our Lord’s forty days in the desert at the start of the proclamation of the Good News.
It’s never to early to start to begin thinking about Lent, about fasting, prayer, repentance and good works which should characterise the whole of our lives, but especially as we prepare to celebrate Our Lord’s Passion and Resurrection. It is good then that in these weeks leading up to Lent that things assume something of a more penitential character. The simple fact is that all of us as Christians could do better, and we must keep trying so to do, and most importantly that we do this together - encouraging each other, and picking each other up when we fall.
It is heartening to remind ourselves of this fact when have only just finished the week of prayer for Christian Unity, and on World Holocaust Memorial Day. Humanity is learning that never again should genocide on such a massive scale take place, and that the wounded and divided nature of the Body of Christ, the Church, is not a good thing. In the seventeenth chapter of John’s Gospel, we see Our Lord praying in Gethsemane that ‘they may all be one as I and the Father are one’. There is to be a unity of will and purpose in the Church, to spread the Good News so that all may believe. The wounds of the last thousand years can no longer disfigure the Bride of Christ, and we have to do all that we can so that in the words of a well-known hymn:
For all thy Church, O Lord, we intercede;
make thou our sad divisions soon to cease;
draw us the nearer each to each, we plead,
by drawing all to thee, O Prince of Peace;
thus may we all one Bread, one Body be,
through this blest Sacrament of unity.
We are not there yet, and sometimes it can seem as far off as ever, especially when developments are considered which would have the effect of putting off the growing together in love which is Our Lord’s will. It’s sad because generally speaking the Church is quite good at doing what Jesus tells us to do, yet here in the matter of unity we seem happy to disregard Our Lord’s commands as though we know better. It is a manifestation of the sin of pride, that primal sin which causes humanity’s fall, of thinking that we know better than God what is good for us. After thousands of years we still do exactly the same thing – we are still in need of God’s love and mercy, his healing and reconciliation.
But as Christians we are called to live lives filled with joy which comes from God, and lives characterised by faith, hope, and love. We have to trust the God who made us, and who redeemed us, and let our hearts be filled with his love, and his forgiveness, so that we can grow together and not apart. It’s God’s will after all and it will be done. It may not be in my lifetime, or that of anyone listening to or reading this, but it will come about, despite any efforts to stop it.
Personally speaking I find that certainty quite encouraging and quite comforting – that things will be alright in the end, and that despite humanity’s best efforts to make a mess of things, through God all things are possible. So in the meanwhile, what are we to do? We are to pray, to encourage one another, and to be joyful in the Lord who giveth us the victory in Our Lord Jesus Christ. We are to be sorry for our sins, confessing them, and repenting – turning away from the ways of sin and the world to those of God, and living our new life together in him, fed by his Word and Sacraments, strong in the faith which come to us from the Apostles, eschewing all heresy and schism, in humble trust of the God who loves us and saves us, so that every tongue may confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to glory of God the Father, to whom with the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever.