* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
(March 6, 2019)
Bottom line: Fasting and generosity: Jews and Christians have used these practices for millenia - to refocus, get back on the rails, to turn to God.
In his foreword to The Mindful Catholic, Dr. Peter Kreeft admits, "I have ADD...I am easily bored and distracted." Like Dr. Kreeft many of us - even if not clinically diagnosed - we experience those symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder.
That's the reason you and I need Lent. We get scattered, distracted, lose our focus. Jesus gives us the remedy: the penitential practices that Jews and Christians have used for centuries. The practices are prayer, fasting and almsgiving - or generosity.
We'll say more about prayer and generosity as we go deeper into Lent. For now, I'd like to underscore fasting. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast which means we should experience some physical hunger - Go to bed hungry as so many in our world do.
Beyond Ash Wednesday, the seven Fridays between now and Easter are also days of abstinence from meat. I invite you to join me in the Daniel Fast: in addition to meat, abstain from other savory foods such as sweets, bread, fried food, cheese, eggs and alcohol. Instead: fruit, vegetables, grains, oil, seeds, nuts, poached fish and legumes. Try doing a Daniel Fast on Fridays and one other day, perhaps Tuesday. You may find the Daniel Fast will influence other days of Lent. This Sunday we will hear how Jesus fasted forty days. Fasting will help us focus, to fight ADD.
Maybe you already got distracted. Perhaps this morning you forgot it was Ash Wednesday and fixed a bacon and egg breakfast. Don't beat yourself up and throw in the towel. Take a breath, slowly exhale. Refocus. In fasting, prayer and generosity Jesus gives us the way to fight ADD, to get back on track, to refocus.
When Dr. Kreeft said, "I have ADD...I am easily distracted," he mentions a book that helped him: The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. During Lent I will use that little book along with The Mindful Catholic - it takes advantage of new brain science studies to help our relation to God and to each other.
I encourage you to get a copy of Practice of the Presence of God and Mindful Catholic. They are both available as audio books which I like. I have a third resource that I want each of you to have: Let God Work Wonders by Fr. Joseph Sica. It has reflections for each day of Lent. Last year we used Finding Hope When Life Hurts, also by Fr. Sica. I think you will like Let God Work Wonders. Pick up a copy at the entrances.
For Ash Wednesday Fr Sica tells about Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. As a boy he traveled across country with his grandparents. His grandmother smoked throughout the trip and Jeff estimated how many years she took off her life. When he told her she began to cry. His grandfather took him outside and said, "Jeff, one day you'll understand it's harder to be kind than clever."
I don't know about you but for me a lot of unkindness is inattention, lack of focus, ADD. This Lent we will fight ADD. We will use Prayer, fasting and generosity. Jews and Christians have used these practices for millennia - to refocus, get back on the rails, to turn to God. As we will hear when we receive the cross of ashes, "Repent and believe in the Gospel." Amen.