Archbishop José H. Gomez
March 23, 2017 – By Archbishop José H. Gomez
How is your Lent going?
These first few weeks have been really busy for me. I can imagine that in your life, too, you feel the “pull” of many responsibilities and demands on your time.
We need to encourage each other to keep moving forward in the spirit of Lent.
We start off Lent with good intentions. I have a friend who always makes the same resolution: “This Lent, I’m going to make real progress in my spiritual life. I’m really going to do Lent ‘right.’”
It is a beautiful aspiration. But sometimes things get in the way or we lose focus. The point is not to give up or start being critical and “beating up” on ourselves. We need to just return to the path. After all, Lent is about conversion, new beginnings. Jesus is always there to offer his hand so that we can return to God.
St. Paul, through his letters, reminds us that we need to keep our eyes always on Jesus. “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is. … Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth.”
That is how we need to think and how we need to live — and not only during Lent. That does not mean we should reject or ignore the things of this world. This world is good — because God made it good. God gives us this world to be our home. He calls us to use the good things of this world to serve his will and to serve one another.
Lent is our annual reminder that we need to keep “things” in their proper perspective. We need to put “first things” first. We need the right priorities.
God — and doing God’s will — should always be the “first thing” in our life. Everything else flows from our relationship with him. St. Augustine had that great line: “Love God and do what you will.”
What that means to me is that if we start from the love of God — rooting all our motives and desires in trying to glorify God and trying to do what God wants us to do — then everything else will be OK.
The things of this world can become “too much.” They can come to fill up and “crowd out” the place where God should be in our lives.
We need what the saints call “the spirit of detachment.” Again, this does not mean we reject the people in our lives or the good things that God gives us in his creation.
But we all understand that sometimes we can let our own “wants” — what we desire, what we are “hungry” for — come to dominate our lives. We spend too much time worrying about how to satisfy these wants and appetites. So we need to “let go” and “give up” some of these desires. That is detachment.
When we start to let go of things, when we start to give up certain habits or “wants” in our lives, we feel a new spirit of freedom. And it really is a kind of liberation. Because what happens is that we are setting our hearts free to love — to want what God wants, to desire what God desires for our lives.
So what are you “attached” to? Are there things you are too dependent on, things that you need “too much”? Are there activities that take up too much time, that play too big a role in your life?
I know a young woman who gave up “screens” for Lent. She feels she is spending too much time looking at various “screens” — on her mobile phone, on her computer monitor, on her television.
So one of the ways she is “fasting” during Lent is by trying to spend less time checking Facebook or Instagram and by not worrying so much about whether someone is “texting” her.
But there are many things in our lives that we are probably too attached to. Maybe for you, one of your distractions is spending too much time thinking about “March Madness” and what your “brackets” are going to look like.
Again, this is not to say these things are necessarily bad for us. Cultivating a spirit of detachment helps liberate us from allowing these things to take priority over God in our lives.
Again and again in the Gospels, Jesus calls his followers to leave things behind to follow him. Sometimes we have to give up good things in order to open ourselves up to receive the greater things that God wants to give us.
So please pray for me this week. And I will be praying for you. We are almost halfway down the road in our Lenten journey to Easter.
So let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to help us to finish our journey stronger. May she help us to grow in this spirit of detachment — so we are truly free to love as God wants us to love.