Is It All About You?

“It’s all about you…”

Most of us have been told that we should not be selfish, that everything is not all about us. We must be aware of the needs of others and think about their wellbeing.

I recently received a question from a friend who asked some rather pointed questions about this topic.

Imagine this dialog with the Lord:

“When you were born, as a small infant your parents were very attentive and chose all the best for you.  It was all about you.

“As you grew and attended school, your teacher was concerned that you learn and grow to be all you were capable of being. It was all about you.

“When you chose a profession with which to provide for yourself in the world, I made sure you had good insights available to aid you in your selection. It was all about you.

“As your adult life unfolded, I provided opportunities for you to grow and mature and give some of yourself to others to help them. It was all about you, but it was beginning to include others.

“When you reached old age, and starting to slow down a bit, you looked for ways to serve others to give yourself meaning and purpose in your life. It was all about them, with a little for you.

“Life has been a series of my slowly shifting you from it being all about you, to it being all about others.

“One day, you will realize that you are able to go long periods of time where you do not think about yourself at all. Your focus will all be on the good of others. At that point, you will understand the feeling I had as I hung on the cross so that it could all be about you and others. And, I will say to you, well done my faithful servant.”

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First Week Of Lent

Homily, Mar 08-09, 2014: Cycle A, 1st Sun of Lent (Desert Temptations)

This past Wednesday, we celebrated Ash Wednesday, and began the Season of Lent – a time of preparation for the Easter celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, six weeks from today.

For some reason whenever I think of Lent I always think back to an earlier time.

I grew up in Savannah in the pre-Vatican II church, a church preoccupied with rules & regulations. Some of my earliest memories were of giving up something during Lent – like chocolate or Coke-a-Cola.

In my early teen years, during my “smart Alex” stage, I announced to the family that ‘this Lent I was giving up Broccoli’.

My mother never batted an eye; she recognized my strategy & countered with one of her own.  She knew that the Sundays in Lent were not considered part of Lent, so she served Broccoli every Sunday.  🙂

On Friday evenings of Lent after abstaining from meat all day, my family drove to Williams Seafood restaurant on the road to Savannah Beach and pigged out on shrimp, crab, and fish.

We were not big on the fasting part, but we had abstaining honed to a fine art. Did we miss the point?

Lent is a time to imitate Jesus spending forty days in the desert.  Even in His weakened state from fasting, He was able to overcome the devil’s temptations.

The difficulties of the desert make whatever is inside a person come to the surface. The desert tests us and shows us the person we really are if we stay there long enough.

Probably none of us will ever spend time in a real desert, but we have difficult life experiences that do the same thing for us – test us & expose us – break down the veneer we craft around ourselves, so carefully. They can strip us of the persona we prefer to show others.

Lent is a time to reflect on that reality and examine ourselves with the purpose of trying to improve. It is a time to try again to live the life to which Jesus calls us.

It is a time to put our souls before a mirror and see ourselves as we really are. If it has been awhile since we last looked in that mirror, we will likely notice we have added a few pounds.

It is an invitation to allow our sin, our darkness, and our woundedness to come to the surface so that we can deal with them and allow the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to heal them.

In our Gospel today we heard the various temptations that Jesus faced.

First, He was tempted to prove that He was the Son of God by misusing His divine power for selfish purposes: “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread”, (since you are so hungry).

For us that same temptation may be one where we are tempted to misuse our human power within our families, jobs, businesses, or even bible study classes for the satisfaction of our egos, which are always hungry.

The second temptation: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from the parapet; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning you, & with their hands they will support you lest you dash your foot upon a stone.’”

For us that same temptation may be one where we are tempted to try God, to force Him to dance to our tune, rather than hold Him in the awe and wonder He deserves.

It is an attitude of our telling God to do what He said He would do, the great sin of presumption, and one reserved for us as Christians. We read His words in scripture and then have the audacity to tell Him what they should mean.

During the third temptation, Jesus is tempted to wreck his Father’s plan, “All these Kingdoms of the world I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me”.

The temptation for Jesus is to drop His love and His allegiance to His Heavenly Father and give it instead to the evil one.

For us that same temptation may be one where we are tempted to choose the values of this world at the cost of our very souls. We are tempted to turn from the things of God and go after worldly wealth & pleasure & prestige.

We are tempted all the time actually. At the very least, we are tempted to be something we are not, tempted to deny our Poverty of Spirit. We delude ourselves that we are better than we really are. Our consciences’ lose their ability over time to reign us is, if we do not listen to them closely & often.

Therefore, Lent is that season where we can get back in touch with our true selves – where we can see clearly that God loves us with an enormous love, no matter how we behave.

When we see even a glimmer of that strong love of God, it makes us want to get it together and love Him back as well as others, to please Him, not because of a rule or regulation.

Pope Frances recently reminded his 19 new cardinals: “We love those who are hostile to us; we bless those who speak ill of us; we greet with a smile those who may not deserve it. We do not aim to assert ourselves; we oppose arrogance with meekness; we forget the humiliations that we have endured.”

Those are good words for all of us anytime but especially during Lent.

The word “Lent” is an old English word, which means roughly, “springtime.” May this Lent really be a new springtime in the life of each of us.

Through prayer, through fasting, by forgiving others, by not bearing grudges, and through giving from our resources to help the poor, may we like Jesus in the desert, overcome temptation and thus be better prepared to celebrate Easter, six weeks from today.