Sacred Heart Catholic High School
Thursday, February 15, 2018
This past Sunday, the Gospel laid out for us the story of a leper; a leper who ran up to Jesus, knelt down before him, and said “If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Leprosy – the word means “to peel off”. Lepers were separated from family and society so they could not infect others. They were sentenced to a living death…a fate worse than death.
If you wish, you can make me clean.
Jesus looks at him with pity. He looks at him with love. I do will it. Be made clean.
The Lord gives us Lent because he loves us. He loves you and he wants you to be all you can be. He wants you to become the saint that you are meant to be. He wants to free you so that you can live fully and love deeply.
He longs to speak those words to you. I do will it. Be made clean.
But if he is to speak those words, he must speak them in response to your request. If you are to hear those words and have them take effect in your life, you must make your request.
If you wish, you can make me clean.
And so, every year, the Church gives us the season of Lent. A season for days of reflection. A season that provides us the opportunity to stop, to step back and to examine our lives. A season that provides a space for us to ask the question:
What is the state of my heart?
How am I doing in my relationship with God and with those around me?
Where have I allowed habits of sin to creep in and close the doors of my heart?
This is the purpose of Lent: it is a time to examine the state of our hearts. Once we have examined our hearts and see where we need Jesus to make us clean, then we are to direct our Lenten practices toward overcoming that habit of sin and growing in the opposite virtue.
What are some of these habits of sin that may be affecting us? What is the leprosy that infects your heart? Let’s look at the 7 deadly sins. As I describe them, I ask you to reflect on which of these you currently struggle with the most.
Pride. Pride is a puffed up view of myself. I’m the cock of the walk. I have all of the answers and don’t have anything to learn from anyone else. Pride is the chief sin. It is also a blinding sin. People who are prideful often don’t see that they are prideful. But everyone else sees it. They live in a castle of illusion, thinking they are the center of the universe. Do you suffer from pride? If you quickly said “no” or just rolled your eyes, I would encourage you to ask yourself the question again…
Anger. Anger is often caused by impatience. There are times that anger is justified if it moves me to stand up for what is right. But habits of anger turn the heart bitter and prevent us from loving as God calls us to love. Do you suffer from anger? Is anger turning your heart bitter?
Gluttony. Gluttony is eating or drinking to excess. My body needs proper nourishment to function well, and my body is a gift from God. A habit of gluttony enslaves me to my desires – if I want it, then I will have it, regardless of whether or not it’s excessive or unhealthy. Gluttony weakens my will power and my ability to choose. Do you suffer from gluttony?
Lust. Lust is a disordered desire for sexual pleasure. Lust sees other people as objects to be used for my pleasure. Lust sees body parts and not the whole person. Here, I would draw a distinction between attraction and lust. Attraction is recognizing beauty in another person. Lust focuses on the physical attraction and begins to fantasize or make demeaning comments about the other. Do I find myself looking at pornography or engaging in sexual acts with myself or with others? Do I regularly give in to lust? Perhaps the Lord wants to set you free from lust this Lent…
Sloth. Sloth is a laziness of spirit. Sloth takes away my zeal. It saps me of my energy. It makes me waste my time doing nothing instead of putting my energy into serving others. How much time do I spend sitting around all day, doing nothing? Do I spend countless hours watching TV or playing video games? Do I set goals for myself? Perhaps the Lord wants to free you from sloth this Lent…
Envy. Envy is jealousy – wishing that I had what others have. It makes me think badly of others for what they have and it prevents me from being grateful for what I have. Do I often find myself jealous of others? Cultivating a spirit of gratitude is the opposite of envy.
Greed. The love of money is the root of all evil. Not money itself, but the love of money. Do I find myself always wanting more? Will I use other people to get more for myself? Is my heart attached to things that really don’t matter? Your heart it made for God and he is ultimately the only One who can satisfy the desires of your heart. Do I suffer from greed?
Out of those 7 deadly sins, which one affects you the most? Pride, anger, gluttony, lust, sloth, envy, or greed? Lent is your time to approach the Lord with that sin, to kneel down, and to say, Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.
What if we did that?
What if we directed our Lenten sacrifices toward tearing open our hearts so that the weed of sin that we struggle with could be plucked out?
What if we directed our Lenten sacrifices to uprooting these sins and replacing them with the opposite virtues: planting humility in place of pride, patience in place of anger, temperance or moderation in place of gluttony, chastity in place of lust, diligence in place of sloth, gratitude in place of envy or jealousy, generosity in place of greed?
What if we did that?
What if our penances were directed toward a purpose?
What if we actually expected to grow this Lent…to change this Lent?
How would your life be different? Would it be better?
Where is Jesus inviting you to grow? Where is Jesus calling you from death to life?
Pray for the grace to grow in that area. Pray for it on your knees, daily on your knees imploring the God of all grace for the grace to be made clean. Pray for the grace to return to confession if it’s been years. Pray for the grace to rend your heart – to experience true contrition for your sins. Pray for God to do within you what you cannot do for yourself.
St. Augustine offers this piece of wisdom:
Do you want your prayer to fly to God? Then give it the wings of fasting and almsgiving.
Prayer gives God permission to do his part.
Fasting and almsgiving is your part.
Pray and then fast.
Fasting builds spiritual muscle. We have one will. If you strengthen your will in one area, it will strengthen it in other areas where you struggle. Giving up chocolate or pop strengthens your will in the area of food, and that carries over into the areas of anger, drink, and sex among others. But you have direct it toward that virtue you are trying to grow in. Don’t just give up pop and chocolate for its own sake. Give up pop and chocolate and offer that as a sacrifice to God, asking him to free you from the sin you struggle with. Direct your penance toward a purpose. Know why you’re doing it.
Pray, fast, and give alms. Almsgiving atones for sins. It returns to God from a grateful heart, and in turn it makes the heart more grateful. It focuses your heart on others – it stretches your heart so that it can be filled with the love of God. Find a way to give of your time, your gifts, or your money this Lent. Practice charity. Focus on the needs of others.
Pray, fast, and give alms – direct all of those practices toward rooting out the habit of sin that plagues you and toward planting the opposite virtue will give you the freedom to live more fully and to love more deeply.
Don’t put off to next year what you can do this year. Approach the Lord with the words of the leper. Lord if you wish, you can make me clean.
He wishes to make you clean.
You are his beloved Son. You are his beloved daughter. He want to make you free. You have only to ask him in prayer and then to commit to fasting and almsgiving, and you will see a transformation happen.