Chaplain’s Conference – Into the Desert (Lent)

Chaplain’s Conference
Sacred Heart School – High School
Thursday, February 28, 2019
Pre-Lenten Conference


Let us pray.

Clothe us, Lord God,
with the virtues of the heart of your Son,
and set us aflame with his love,
that, conformed to his image,
we may merit a share in his eternal redemption.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.  

Lent begins next week with Ash Wednesday.

In the Old Testament, we read the story of the Israelite people in slavery in Egypt.  God raised up Moses who led them out of slavery in Egypt and into the freedom of the Promised Land. But in order to get from slavery to freedom, they had to go through the desert.  They were in the desert for 40 years…hence the 40 days of Lent.

Lent is the time of the desert. But the desert is not an end in itself.  We don’t go through the desert for the sake of going through the desert.  We don’t do penance for the sake of doing penance.  No, we go through the desert in order to reach the freedom of the Promised Land.  We direct our penances toward the purpose of growing in the area where God wants us to grow.

Lent is about the conversion of our hearts. It is about becoming the saint that God calls us to be.  One of the Benedictine Values is conversion of life – we always try to become more like Christ.  It never ends.  It’s lifelong.  Sometimes we strive forward and at other times we fall back.  Lent is a time to take stock of where we are and to strive forward.

And so, I ask you:

From what do you need to be set free this Lent?

Where have you grown lazy?

Where have you allowed habits of sin to creep in?

Where have you allowed bad habits to take hold – habits that keep you from becoming the saint that God calls you to be?

Think of the 7 deadly sins.  Generally, we have one that we struggle with more than the others.

  • Pride is a puffed up view of yourself.  “I’m the ultimate authority on everything and no one is going to tell me what to do.”
  • Anger.  Do I find myself losing my temper easily or do I struggle to be patient with others?
  • Greed.  Do I always need to have the next best thing?  Am I content with what I have?
  • Envy.  Do I find myself jealous of others?
  • Sloth.  Have I grown lazy in an area of my life or in general?
  • Lust.  Have I fallen into pornography or other sexual sins?
  • Gluttony.  Am I consuming more food or drink than is healthy for me?

In the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were tempted by the serpent. They gave into the temptation.  They sinned.  Before the Fall, Adam and Eve walked in harmony with God, with each other, and they experienced harmony within themselves.

After the Fall, those 3 relationships experienced a rupture.

Sin causes a rupture in these three relationships: in our relationship with God, with others, and within ourselves. Lent provides three remedies to heal the rupture in these three relationships.  The remedies are: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving.

Prayer strengthens our relationship with God. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.

How is your prayer life?  Are you determined to keep your prayer time each day?  Or have you grown slack?  Have you stopped praying altogether?

Lent provides you the time to be renewed in your prayer life. Seize it.  How could you take a small step each day to grow?  Pick something and be consistent.  Practice it every day.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Learn a new prayer – lots of them in your planner
  • Rosary or decade of the Rosary each day
  • Pick a day of the week to spend some time sitting before the Tabernacle. Before/after school, during study hall.
  • Pray Evening Prayer or Night prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours
  • Commit to going to confession once/week during Lent
  • Set up a prayer corner in your room and use it every day

Whatever you do, focus your prayer.  Ask God to strengthen you in the area in which you are trying to grow.

Fasting heals the rupture that we experience within ourselves. The human person has an intellect, a will, and desires (head, heart, appetites).  Before the Fall, these three were in harmony.  I desired what I knew was good for me.  With the Fall, these were ruptured.  Now I want to do what I know I should not do.

Fasting is when we deny ourselves something that we want. Fasting strengthens our will.  As human beings, we have one will.  If we strengthen our will in one area, it carries over to other areas.

As an example: Do you struggle with lust or anger or laziness? Fasting from desserts will strengthen your will, which will in turn make it easier to resist temptations of lust, anger, and laziness.  By controlling your desire for food, you increase the control that you have over your desires of lust, anger, and laziness.  You strengthen your will.

What could you give up in order to grow in the area where you struggle?

  • Social media?
  • Eating between meals?
  • Desserts?
  • The snooze button?
  • A limit to your time in the shower?

This is hard.  You’ll want to give up.  Stay consistent.  Choose something small that you will be able to do but then stick to it every day.  Focus your fast.  Direct it to a purpose. “Jesus, I offer this to you. Help me to grow in…”

Almsgiving is giving something for others, especially for others in need. Almsgiving heals the rupture that sin causes in our relationship with others.  It draws us out of ourselves and helps us to focus on others.  It changes our hearts from being selfish to being generous.

How can you make a gift of yourself to others during this Lent?

  • What if you wrote a classmate’s name on every day of your calendar for Lent, and did an act of kindness for that person on their day?  Or offered a word of encouragement to that person on their day?
  • What if you wrote a kind note to someone every Wednesday and Friday during Lent, affirming a gift that they have or expressing gratitude for something that goes unnoticed?
  • Could you volunteer at the food bank, at the Northland Rescue Mission, the Women’s Pregnancy Center, or another organization sometime during Lent?
  • Could you give some money to a charity each week?
  • How could you show generosity this Lent?

Lent is a time of repentance. The word “repentance” means “to turn around” – to change our ways.

Repentance is at the heart of the Gospel. Jesus goes into the desert himself for 40 days and 40 nights, just like we are about to go into the desert of Lent.  He is tempted by Satan but he overcomes his temptations, undoing the sin of Adam and Eve.  He then comes out of the desert and begins the preaching of the Gospel with these words: Repent and believe in the Gospel. Repent – turn around, turn away from sin, change your ways, and believe in the good news.

You hold in your hands a purple form entitled “The Good Works of Lent”.  Take this home tonight and pray over it.  Ask the Lord where he desires to lead you out of slavery and into freedom.  Then commit to acts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving with the purpose of attaining the freedom that He desires for you.  Keep this form as a reminder of what you’ve committed to.  Keep it where you can see it.

During tomorrow’s prayer period, you’ll be given another copy of this form, and you’ll be given the time to fill it out again in class.  Fill it out again and hang it up in your locker where you will see it often throughout the day.

The good news is that Jesus has redeemed us, he does not leave us in our sins, he will lead us out of them. But we have to cooperate.  He does not leave us in our sins so let’s not stay there ourselves.  Let’s repent and believe that Jesus can lead us out of the slavery of our sins, through the desert of Lent, and into a newfound freedom on Easter Sunday.

Let us pray.

As we go through this life, we often wander.  We sin.
Enflame our hearts with the desire to repent, to turn around, and to draw closer to you.
Enlighten our hearts to show us where You desire for us to grow in freedom this Lent.
Fill us with courage and firm resolve in our Lenten practices this year.
You suffered greatly out of love for us, help us to endure our Lenten penances gladly out of love for you.
Help us to become the saints that you call us to be.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Lord be with you…

[i] Collect for the Votive Mass for the Sacred Heart of Jesus

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