Lent: Prelude to Eternity

Clergy Corner by Fr. Robert Falabella

This coming Wednesday, February 10, Lent begins with the distribution of ashes, accompanied by the formula prayer: “Repent and believe in the Gospel” or the formula prayer: “Remember, you are dust and to dust you will return” -- both of which, during this Lenten period, call for a prayerful exercise in growing in the gift of Faith in Jesus Christ as the Redeeming Son of God, having been given to us in our Baptism.

The message, running through the first three weeks of Lent, is the call to a life of Gospel conversion, while the remaining weeks present the “life” of the salvific mystery of Christ, the Son of God, of whom John’s Gospel declares that all who believe in Him will have eternal life. Recall Jesus’ words: “I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly”(John 10:10). Christ, then, is presented as the healer and life-giver -- giving life through His confrontation with death; being “obedient, even to the death on the cross”-- and thus redeeming the sinfully scarred children of God and opening before us a share into the mystery of the glorified risen Body of Christ. Lent, then, is a special time in the Church when we consider “life” as a deep mystery -- so significant in its possibility of being lost that God sent His Son to remind us that “life” as God grants it to us is to be  fully experienced not in “time” but in “eternity” -- with its achievement being “Heaven” and its loss being “Hell” (Mt 25:46).

In the two prayers mentioned above, we have, then, a summary of what is contained in the message of Lent. “Repent” and “believe in the Gospel” have to do with “conversion,” that is having a change in the way I have been living my life up to this moment, where I have not yet achieved that degree of holiness as set forth for us when God declared: “Be holy as I your God am holy” (LV 19:2).

The second prayer: “Remember man you are dust and to dust shall you   return,” reveals to us that “TIME” IS NOT OURS forever, since “TIME” comes to an end. However, as God made us in His image and likeness, as God is Eternal Spirit, we then share, but in a dependent way, in that eternal dimension; and so “the mystery of eternity” is to be found within the parameters of our destiny.

We thus have a responsibility, as did Adam and Eve, to be obedient to God Who is our Creator and Redeemer; however, by our not listening to God’s directive, as set forth in His Commandments, but choosing to be disobedient by listening to other than God -- those fellow creatures who are rebellious and hostile to God, their Creator -- such as those espousing same sex marriage; the murder of innocent life in the womb; contraception; the  acceptance of homosexuality as natural to mankind, and trans-genderism -- that arrogantly gratuitous rejection of all reality as found in the biological world of fact, in favor of the idolization of “absurdity” as the norm of “reality.” Such disobedience threatens the very integrity of our soul to know and love God, with the aftermath of entering eternity forever as a stranger to God’s divine life and love.

Finally, the second Lenten prayer about mankind “being dust” reminds us that our bodies had a beginning in time and will have an ending in time; however, God created us in His image and likeness, which has to do with the immateriality of the “spirit” -- that spiritual soul which God created to be immortal, and so eternity and not time, is the destiny God has determined for us. And let us remember that while we had nothing to say about our coming into “time,” we do have the responsibility of electing how we will enter “eternity”-- either with the risen Christ or away from Christ -- as graphically revealed on Good Friday by the actions of the thieves on the right and left of Christ! (Lk 23) Thus, in the death and Resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ -- the revelation about which the penitential time of Lent reminds us -- God reveals that physical death is not our ending but  rather the closing of “time” and the beginning of our destiny at the judgment seat of God, which will find us either “living” happily in eternity (LK 10:20) or “existing” miserably in eternity (Mt 10:28).

May this Lenten season find us growing more deeply in our faith in the reality of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ -- for “if Jesus Christ be not risen, we are the most miserable of men, since we are still in our sins” -- which means being left to ourselves, with a sinful proclivity of choosing to listen not to God, but rather to “other than God -- (whose name is “legion”) as did Adam and Eve with its dreadful consequences! (Gn 3:16-24)

Let us remember that if we choose to live by the values of a sinful, God-resistant world, then our faith, whatever it may be, will be determined and consonant to the lifestyle of those habits -- as expressed in identifying    oneself with those who show disdain for the Commandments of God. However, through a prayerful Lenten period, we can experience the fullness of repentance -- the fruit of which is “conversion” to the life and teachings of Christ. The authenticity of this Faith will determine the habits by which we will live out our life -- with an eternity of joy rather than of regret. We have Christ’s Word on it ( CF.Mt19:29) (Jn 15:11).

Or, to paraphrase Bishop Fulton Sheen: Before conversion, our lifestyle   determined what we would believe; but after conversion, it is our faith that determines what our lifestyle should be -- and how we would thus live out our lives on earth as a prelude to the eternity that awaits us!!

Tags: Clergy Corner, Fr. Robert

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