Homily for March 22, Tuesday of the II week of Lent
Twelve days of Lent have already passed. We are about a quarter of the way to Easter! I’m sure we have all tried our best to be faithful to the Lenten sacrifices we promised to Our Lord on Ash Wednesday, and I hope those efforts have been successful.
However, we should not beat ourselves up too much if we have failed a few times, as long as we are making a real effort. The sacrifices we make of giving up things like chocolate or soda are important signs of our desire to make reparation to God, but there other sacrifices that matter even more to God. We need to strive each day to live better what we believe, in both our hearts and our actions, and that is at times quite a sacrifice.
As the psalm points out, we can be saying all the right things and keeping the externals of religious observance perfectly, but if we don’t love God and try to live by the principles of His teachings daily – whether or not anyone can see us – our sacrifices will not be pleasing to God.
This is the sin of the scribes and Pharisees, as described by Jesus in the Gospel reading. They preached well and practiced their prayers and sacrifices very publicly, to be sure people thought them to be holy. They reveled in the honors and respect they received, but their hearts were far from God.
Jesus teaches us that humility is essential to holiness. We should not be doing good deeds in order to win titles and adulation. Rather, we should seek to serve others, recognizing that Christ is the One from Whom we receive all good things. We are all His instruments and His disciples. If we set ourselves up as models of holiness, we are probably far from being saintly. The greatest saints always shift the glory from themselves to God.
The external manifestations of our faith need to be be the result of our conversion of heart, for which they can never substitute. When we do work on essentials, worrying about eliminating sin from our lives and doing works of charity and mercy, God promises wonderful things. As He says through the prophet Isaiah in the first reading, He will cleanse us of our sins and give us spiritual nourishment – or as the psalm says, He will show us “the salvation of God.” Let us continue our Lenten efforts to be faithful to our seasonal sacrifices, but above all, let us seek God’s help to turn away from sin and live as faithful, humble servants of each other, brothers and sisters, through Christ in God our Father.