Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Makeover Not Done-Over
Lent is underway. Are we underway and exercising our spirits? Lent is annual, so it risks being “same ol’.” Lent has three pillars, fasting, almsgiving and prayer, and how much can one vary a set of three? So that we don’t lose heart at the outset of lent, I recall for us something the church recalls for us each Friday after Ash Wednesday, a homily of St. John Chrysostom.
The 4th-Century Doctor of the Church had the gift of eloquent expression--people wept and laughed during the same homily! When he preached about prayer he was candid: “I do not mean the prayer of outward observance but prayer from the heart, not confined to fixed times or periods but continuous...day and night.”/1/ In a sentence St. John echoed Jesus, who exhorted us to pray sincerely as Lent began/2/, and St. Paul, who encouraged constant prayer./3/
Prayer connects one with God, “as an honored ambassador. ...It is the longing for God, love too deep for words, a gift given not by [humans] but by God’s grace.”/4/
Prayer is God’s gift! That’s important to recall, especially at the outset of Lent’s long-haul. A gift is cherished, savored, worn, practiced. While not our making, we take active roles with our gifts; so, too, with praying. St. John Chrysostom vividly portrayed our role:
Practice prayer from the beginning. Paint your house with the colors of modesty and humility. Make it radiant with the light of justice. Decorate it with the finest gold leaf of good deeds. Adorn it with the walls and stones of faith and generosity. Crown it with the pinnacle of prayer./5/He vividly encourages us to redecorate, using prayer and all its action-results, to make each of us a more “splendid palace,” a more welcoming home for God to reside and to reign.
If you are unsure what to do this Lent, I suggest you attend to God and God’s desires for your Lent. Do not rush. Enter into daily quiet, if for only 15 minutes, and invite God to join you. God will and you may be surprised at the shape your Lent takes this year.
/1/ Homily on prayer, excerpt in Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours, v.2, p. 69
/2/ Matthew 6.5-8, which Jesus immediately followed with how to pray, verses 9-13!
/3/1Thessalonians 5.17; 1Titus 2.8; Paul recalled Jesus encouraged this: Luke 18.1; 21.36.
/4/ Homily on prayer, Liturgy of the Hours, v.2, p. 69.
/5/ Ibid., pp. 69-70.
Wiki-image of St. John Chrysostom is in the public domain.