Scripture Readings: Genesis 12: 1-4a; 2 Timothy 8-10; Matthew 17: 1-9
Many people over the past year have expressed words of appreciation and support for Pope Francis, who this week (March 13), observed his first anniversary as Bishop of Rome, as Pope.
Yet these expressions of approval of the Pope have not been seen in our churches. Polls have shown that there has not been any observable increase in our churches.
This fact comes at the same time that an NBC News-Wall Street Journal Poll has shared that: 21 percent of Americans say, “Religion is not that important” in their lives. (An increase from the 14 percent reported in 1997). The poll also shares that these less religious people live in the Northeast or in the West.
A few days ago I was listening to a Catholic Radio personality share his response to this poll. He shared that his first reaction was one of great negativity. But he went on to share that as he prayerfully reflected on the poll, he came to the realization that the poll was a reminder that we, the active Catholics, have a responsibility to come to know our faith more deeply and to live our faith more faithfully.
And that is certainly the “Call of Baptism” and the “Call of Lent” to grow in the faith, to grow in knowing the faith, and to live our faith more faithfully.
How can we do this?
I would suggest that the first thing we might consider is: to listen.
As we hear in today’s Gospel: Then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; Listen to Him.”
Remember the Wedding Feast at Cana when Mary says to the waiters:
“Do whatever he tells you.”
When we listen to God, great things happen.
But we need to honestly ask the question:
Who or what is guiding our lives?
Is it the voice of the Lord or the voice of someone or something else?
God speaks to us every day. Does the busyness of it all get in the way?
There is no doubt that the increasing number of people who say, “religion is not that important” in their lives is due to many factors. But, the lives we live, the lives we strive and struggle to live, that interact with so many people every day need to be centered in God, in the Gospel. The question we need to consider is, how can our lives reflect more and more the life and love of God?
Just maybe an increase in the importance of religion in the life of someone you know depends on our individual and collective attentiveness and response to the Word of God, to the Gospel each day.
Secondly, we have to respond to the Voice of God, the Word of God.
Lent is about “going into the Desert,” Lent is about “Going up the Mountain” as Jesus and his Disciples did in today’s Gospel.
We need to spend some time with the Lord, to get to know and understand the Lord on a regular basis. (Just like we spend time with our friends)
During these remaining weeks of Lent, how about attending one or more of the Wednesday Lenten Offerings? (This Wednesday – March 19 at 6:30 pm in church – Let’s make a real effort to come together for one hour for an evening of Inspired Song; Next Wednesday – March 26 at 6:30 pm in the hall – A men’s only Lenten Gathering entitled: “Faith Filled Men” and on Wednesday, April 9th – be part of a very special Stations of the Cross led by our Parish Youth)
In the Scriptures no one is ever commanded, “stay right here where you are! Do not move a muscle.” Rather God always expects us to change our position, either to alter our physical location or our frame of mind.
Finally, let me end with a prayer entitled: “A New Serenity Prayer” by Fr. Jim Martin.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, which is pretty much everyone, since I’m clearly not you, God.
At least not the last time I checked.
And while you’re at it God, please give me the courage to change what I need to change about myself, which is frankly a lot, since, once again, I’m not you, which means I’m not perfect.
It’s better for me to focus on changing myself than to worry about changing other people, who, as you’ll no doubt remember me saying, I can’t change anyway.
Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up whenever I think that I’m clearly smarter than everyone else in the room, that no one knows what they’re talking about except me, or that I alone have all the answers.
Basically, God grant me the wisdom to remember that I’m not you. Amen.