Saturday, 26 March 2016

The Lent Project #10 How To Die

Brothers and sisters: Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. 
Romans 6:3-4

This reading is one of the MANY Easter Vigil readings today. Some people think there are too many, but it's SALVATION HISTORY! It's the story of victory, of salvation, of triumph, of spring, after the long dark winter.

But how does our heart rejoice fully on Easter Vigil, if we have not tasted the death that Jesus suffered? And what is this death we were baptized into?

Death to the sin in our lives

We CANNOT get comfortable with our sin. We CANNOT compartmentalize our lives. We have to be willing to do whatever it takes to fight the sin in our lives, and allow it to be crucified on the Cross with Jesus. That's painful! It can be a bloody, bloody fight. Like fighting in the ring, being knocked down, and getting up again and again. And again. Whatever it is, you know your own sin. It's fighting the lack of love, the obsessive self-centeredness that shadows our every decision.

Practically it could look like:
  • Being willing to accept that yes, you really are a sinner, and yes, your sin is UGLY
  • Waking up and facing the people who've hurt you and loving them and smiling at them again and again.
  • Dragging yourself to Confession after yet another lapse into impurity (of any kind)
  • Refusing to give up on hope that yes, you can be different, one day you WILL be different

  • Making yourself vulnerable to people who can help keep you accountable
  • Dealing a deathly blow to your pride and asking for forgiveness when people confront you with your sin, instead of justifying it or brushing it off
Saying yes to the crosses He offers us

It's the invitation to 'choose what we did not choose.' To accept the painful or annoying or frustrating circumstances of our lives with grace and patience, believing that He will redeem EVERYTHING one day, wipe away every tear, make all things new. That includes our own weaknesses, our pasts, our family issues, our struggles with anxiety and depression, the death of loved ones. You can't run away from them, but are called to embrace them, in trust.

Practically it could look like:
  • Waking up and going to the job you hate, under the unfair tyrannical boss who takes every opportunity to put you down, and letting go of resentment, and patiently praying and loving him or her
  • Accepting that anxiety or depression are a part of your life, and taking the medication you need, praying for healing, and keeping on keeping on
  • Loving and living with difficult family members and their weaknesses and issues without exploding with frustration every five minutes
  • Accepting the hormonal craziness of PMS or menopause and offering it up instead of turning into a furiously grumpy maniac (This has NOTHING to do with me or my life. Nothing.)

 Dying with Him to lessen the burden of a suffering world

This one is a little harder. It's a whole re-orientation of our lives, the careers we choose, the way we spend our money, how we react to poverty and suffering in the world. It is a constant moving away from our comfort zones, in order to lessen the discomfort of others' lives. THIS IS FREAKING PAINFUL.

Practically it could look like:
  • Giving up luxuries like new phones or expensive holidays or alcohol in order to have more to give those who are struggling to even pay for their children's education
  • Living in a lower middle class instead of upper class apartment in order to be closer to people who deal with the struggles and  challenges of a less privileged comfortable life
  • Running a summer club for kids from poorer backgrounds even though they're rowdy and it's hot and sometimes you don't know what you're doing
  • Responding to appeals for help even though you think you've done enough 
  • Living sacrificially, being quick to offer to serve, or say yes when someone asks you to serve even when it's not convenient

Choosing the discipline of holiness

Fr. Robert Barron says, "People can be fascinated by the spiritual and the religious, drawn in by a charismatic personality or an intense experience, or by trauma. But when they lack the discipline of a religious tradition, they become in time vaguely spiritual. Nothing in life that is taken seriously subsists without discipline and perseverance."  Loving God involves sacrificing me-time to go deeper into Him.

Practically it could look like:
  • Waking up early to spend time in prayer
  • Investing time in reading the bible, the Catechism, the lives of the saints
  • Dropping in to an Adoration chapel for some spiritual radiation
  • Going for weekday Mass
  • Fasting and sacrificing (not only at Lent)

Our celebration of the Resurrection is going to be transformed from a long church service to a GLORIOUS reminder of the ultimate victory... if we allow ourselves to participate in the DEATH of Christ.

Recommended listening: Baptized Into the Death of Christ by Fr. Nathan O'Halloran SJ
[^^I cannot recommend this highly enough. I wish every Christian would listen to this talk.]

Friday, 25 March 2016

The Lent Project #9 How to Spend Your Good Friday

There is a part of me that for many years shrank from Good Friday. It just seemed like an unnecessarily mournful day, where we'd feel guilty if we laughed or were lighthearted, kind of like when you're at the funeral of someone you're not close to, and feel the need for somber faces without any inner disposition toward somberness.

Then some years ago as I began to go deeper into my faith, my heart came to know that

It was MY infirmities that he bore, MY sufferings that he endured, he was pierced for MY offenses, crushed for MY sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes ME whole, by his stripes *I* am being healed. 

It was not the suffering of a stranger, but One whom I know and love, One who looks at me with a gaze of such tender love, even as He is bruised and bloody, and the suffering still isn't over. One who knows my ugliest sin, and has not only loved me and forgiven me for it, but has made a way for me to be holy, to be different, by taking on the sin that I hate, and fighting it for me.

But what could I do with that knowledge? What does He want from me?

In the Passion of the Christ, I saw Mama Mary living it with Him. She didn't look away. How comforting, how consoling it must have been to be accompanied by the ones you love into the darkest valley you have tread. I've felt it, when I have struggled the most, no one could take my suffering away from me, but their presence, their silent entering into my suffering, their sympathetic gaze took some of the sting away.

C.S Lewis depicts it so beautifully in 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe', as Lucy and Susan walk with Aslan on the night before he is taken captive by the Witch, and then watch with deep grief as He is mocked and killed in the hour when evil seemed to triumph.

Fr. Raneiro Cantalamessa talks about his indignation when he hears some people say that the joy of the Resurrection should be proclaimed, but we should avoid returning to a certain kind of spirituality that is too oriented towards suffering.
'It is true we should emphasize faith and the joy of the Resurrection to the extreme, but the balance does not lie in scaling back to moderate doses of self-denial and of the cross. That is an entirely a human way of thinking. The balance comes only in carrying both to extremes: fully accepting the cross in the depths of our souls so that we can fully experience the Resurrection in the depths of our souls.' Sober Intoxication of the Spirit
So on this Good Friday, let us walk with the Lord. Let us fast, and embrace the hunger, offering it to Him as a sacrifice to console Him. Let us bear patiently the heat and the long Good Friday service. Let us be extra gentle with the people around us. Let us take on the little extras to be with Him- the parish Way of the Cross, spending an hour in prayer, reading Good Friday reflections, praying the Divine Mercy chaplet at 3- the hour of mercy on Good Friday! What a powerful hour to pray for the conversion of souls.

Just be close to Him, tenderly speaking with Him through this day, keeping a place of silence within you, where He can rest.

The Lent Project #8 The Strange Effect of Foot Washing

All over the Catholic online world, people were either shocked or excited about Pope Francis saying that women could be part of the liturgical foot-washing on Maundy Thursday (Mass of the Lord's Supper)- first day of the Easter Triduum. Some felt he was disgracing the tradition which was supposed to focus on the institution of the male priesthood, while others felt that he was focussing on the call to charity and humble service for all of us.

 Sometimes I feel like we miss the forest for all the trees.

In India, authority is often abused. I have come across many, many leaders who lord it over those under them. Authority is seen as a place of privilege, where one has won the right to be served. Very often leaders think it's okay to put down the people under them, to mock, to belittle. They think it is normal and expected for people to jump at their command, to be subservient, and keep their opinions to themselves.

Even in the more kindly of leaders, there is still a sense of standing upon their rights, of a boundary of 'This is my place, and I am graciously condescending to you from it, but please don't presume too far, or cross the line, or think that my familiarity means that I am really on the same level as you.'

Power corrupts so easily, it makes one feel like perhaps after all one IS God.

And how does GOD, the only true Authority in this world, use His authority? He bends down, giving up his privilege to take the most menial of tasks, washing the feet of the ones under him. We're so used to the story, it almost doesn't hit us.

But sometimes I think about it- I think about a Bishop sitting on the floor of a home in the slum and eating with the family. In India, that is a strange, strange thought. I think of a principal of a school playing hopscotch with the kids. Never! I think of a priest making and serving chai himself to the labourers in the church compound. I think of a rich woman hugging and eating with her maid. I'm telling you, these things don't happen in India.

People think that they will be taken advantage of if they don't push people around a little bit.

They forget that Jesus got taken advantage of a lot. And that He still calls us to be radically different from the world's way of doing things. He said- I came not to be served, but to serve. If I your teacher and master have done this for you, you also must go and do likewise. Can you imagine a world where a leader was a servant? Where Catholics were known for their humble service to the deserving and undeserving alike? Such a revolutionary idea could change hearts, could break barriers, could heal wounds.

I know, because it happened to me. At a retreat with the community I grew up with many years ago, we were encouraged to wash the feet of anyone the Lord led us to. It's not that difficult to wash the feet of someone you don't know at all. But I was at the retreat with my family, my siblings. The same ones with whom I've shared years of rivalry, competitiveness, one-up-man-ship, and egotism. None of us would ever admit we were wrong to each other. We would argue to the bitter end. And I, as one of the oldest, set the tone for sarcasm, mockery, and looking down on each other.

And then God called me to wash their feet. Oh, the painful humility. There is something VERY intimate and humbling in the act of washing the feet of another, especially when he or she is someone you have thought yourself better than. And it is just as painfully intimate and healing when someone who has hurt you washes your feet. It is the ultimate pride-killer. Tears flowed with the water, and SOMETHING changed that night. A healing began in the relationships between me and my siblings.

Jesus came to turn the values of the world upside down. But we can ignore it, or allow His action to profoundly change us, to re-orient our hearts.

Lenten challenge: Who are you in authority over? Can you choose a humble act of service to them? Perhaps even ask if you can wash their feet? What about someone in authority over you whom you resent? Someone you work with? A family member? Choose humility and love today.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

The Lent Project #7 Making Space to Hear God

So it looks like I've boxed myself into a corner with this Lent Project thing. Remember how I said I was going to write 12 blog posts over the course of Lent? Well... now there's a week left to Easter, and I'm about to write my seventh post, which means, yes indeed, I'm supposed to be writing 6 posts over Holy Week. Aargh. I can do this! Here goes!

I've been reading a book called 'Is That Really You, God? An Adventure in Hearing and Obeying the Voice of God' by Loren Cunningham, the founder of Youth With a Mission. It's a pretty cool book, especially since to a large extent, I have learned that yes, God really does communicate with and guide those who are seeking to hear His voice. Most of the major decisions of my life I've made after directly asking God's guidance, and He has shown me in different ways what and how and where and even when He is asking me to do.

Over the years though, my natural skepticism as well as awareness of human weakness and the the human tendency to self- deception has made me slightly wary of general 'God told me to do this' statements. Oh, God told you to pamper yourself regularly, because you 'deserve it'? Oh, God told you to burn a Koran, because that will convince people of the truth of your religion? Oh, God told you to leave the Catholic Church and just be spiritual, not religious, and feel like you're a good person without any discipline or expectations? Oh, God hasn't told you directly to help the poor, so you're waiting for a a sign? Oh, God hasn't directly told you what to do with your life, so you're not doing anything?  Hmm.. I don't know.

But in being awareness of human weakness, it's easy to forget that God DOES speak, does want to us to seek him, and wants to guide us in the decisions we make for our lives. And when I forget that, I stop hearing Him as clearly, because I don't believe He can speak louder than the loud voices inside my head.

Funny story (that I may have told before): I once was praying about hearing God more clearly, and was aware that I didn't stop talking long enough for Him to speak. So I said. "Okay God, I'm ready to hear You speak. I'll be quiet now." After a few moments of silence, the voice in my head said. "Testing, testing, 1.. 2..3..." and I burst out laughing. My subconscious won't give God a chance.

Anyway, today as I prayed, I read:

'Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear 
and I have not rebelled, 
have not turned my back.'


'Christ Jesus.. humbled himself, 
becoming obedient to the point of death, 
even death on a cross.'

I felt like the Lord was reminding me about the connection between humility and guidance. When I'm so full of myself, my ideas, my opinions, my plans, my desires, God doesn't have room to speak.

'Even though you have been given a good mind to use, right now you want to hear the thoughts of the Lord, who has the best mind.' Excerpt from 'Is That Really You, God?'

A sharp, clear, creative mind is such a gift from the Lord, and yet it is not enough. When that is all I rely on, then I have a feeling of accomplishment, of 'Look what I've done', and yet it is always far less than if I had let Him do His thing, and said at the end 'Look what God has done!' Anyway, as usual I love to reflect on the practicalities of humility, which is so beautiful and yet so elusive.

So I asked: 'How do you want me to be humble, Lord?'
  • 'I need to let myself be challenged without taking immediate offence.' Fr. Cantalamessa in Sober Intoxication of the Holy Spirit. Even when I'm pretty sure I'm right, I need to listen to the other person, take time before responding, and allow the Lord to speak into the issue.
  • Not feel the need to convince or persuade people to what I believe is the truth, but trusting that if I am right, and I am speaking his truth, He will be the one to convince them in time. And if I am wrong, He will convince me instead!

  • Being a little slower to express my opinions about everything.. with people, and with the Lord, in prayer.
  • Having a listening, open spirit- asking people questions about their experiences and stories, rather than only sharing MY experiences and stories. And then really listening.

  • Not assuming that my first reaction to a new idea is the right one. Allowing myself to feel it, and then bringing it to the Lord.
  • Being open to an Option C, even if I'm asking the Lord to guide me between Option A and Option B. I feel like He often says "Allow me to surprise you!"
  • Let others replace me, do not hold on to tightly to any role, or plan, or project, or person.
  • Be at peace with both criticism and praise, attention or invisibility, as long as I am being obedient.
  •  And NEVER think you're done.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

The Lent Project #6 The Secret to Peace, Lent and Everything

The cool thing about being Catholic is that we don't have hidden knowledge, the secrets are all out there. We just have to open some boring looking books like the Catechism, or the Bible, or read the writings of the Church Fathers, and it's all there. Like my 8 year old niece informed me gravely a few days ago, "You can't judge a book by its cover".

One of the biggest secrets I am learning is the secret of dealing with frustration, anxiety, suffering of any kind, issues with people, hot days, sleepless nights, you know, pretty much most problems in life.

And the answer is...


Just kidding.

It is this- Choose what you did not choose. 

That's actually how Fr. Jacques Philippe phrases it in his book 'In the School of the Holy Spirit'. What am I talking about? Well, mostly about abandonment to divine providence, about a peaceful and trusting acceptance of the circumstances of my life that I cannot control. But neither a passive, rolled eyes, 'Fine, Lord! If THAT'S the way You want it!", nor a passive fatalistic pessimism ('Crap* happens.')

Instead a trusting acceptance that somehow, somehow, God can help me bear whatever it is, and that somehow, somehow, He can turn it into something good, if only I will offer it to Him with love, so that He can join it with His love-suffering on the Cross.

Simcha Fisher just wrote a great article about it: "Suck it Up" vs. "Offer It Up".
'When we offer up suffering, we turn pain into an act of love. We turn something passive into something active. We turn a painful rupture into a door through which good can come.' 

We see that sometimes in very practical ways. My friend R is pregnant and horribly sick every day... for the sake of the beautiful baby growing within her womb. I was told about a time when one of the Christian leaders in the community I grew up with was suffering from a terrible headache, but patiently listened to the person who he was with instead of snapping or retreating or complaining. A young mother can't sleep through the night because her sick baby can only sleep when she is holding him tight.

Most times the connection isn't as obvious. We kind of have to take it on faith. But sometimes, the Lord has sweetly and kindly showed me that yes, He did indeed use my weird and silly sacrifices to bless someone else. Like the time I spilled a pot of hot water on my leg, and instead of trying to muffle profanities, I quickly said, " Lord I offer this up for ____, that they will come to know you!" A few weeks later I heard from that person, saying that she was open to hearing more, exploring her faith, giving it a chance. I wept sweet tears.

It seems like the rupture is a breaking through of the barrier between God and the world, through which God can pour His grace.. that He was waiting to pour. He allows a special irreplaceable role in making that rupture a channel of grace.

I am naturally an impatient person who wants to control everything, and think  know I know best. (I told you, INTJs' theme song is 'Mother Knows Best'.) I feel frustrated when things don't go the way I feel they should, when people or situations don't meet my ideals, when cloudy thinking or misconceptions or prejudices cloud the clarity of an issue. This of course had led to tons of frustration and irritation with the world.

But now with the knowledge that God's got it together, even when people (or I) mess up the plan, when the world is a mess, when sometimes people are sabotaging the Church from within, when people just don't get it, when God surprisingly doesn't cooperate with my well-planned suggestions for how my life should go, when life is just broken, or messy, or tiring, or imperfect... I can still be at peace.

When I take a moment to remember God is God, and I am not, that He can bring good from seeming evil, that I have the choice to allow Him into the situation, and that the only control I have of the situation is to CHOOSE WHAT I DID NOT CHOOSE, I am once again resting peacefully in His arms, instead of my beating my fists angrily against His chest, or sulking in a corner. And sometimes even when I don't FEEL at peace immediately, I've learned that that's okay.

A couple of nights ago I was tossing and turning in the heat, mosquitoes chewing me up, and I knew I had to wake up in a few hours for Mass. I crept out of bed to try to find the mosquito repellent cream, and IT WASN'T WHERE I PUT IT! I was MAD! For a few seconds. And then I remembered, And I offered it up- all of it, my tiredness and discomfort and irritation and the Odomos not being where it should have been. And the frustration dissipated... though not the discomfort. And peace returned. (And then I found some Odomos.)

I'm learning that the sacrifices the Lord is asking of me this Lent are often not the ones I planned for at the beginning. He asks that I trustingly and lovingly choose the ones that He sends me each day. And saying yes changes everything. There, now you know the secret.

Lenten challenge: What is one circumstance of your life you find intensely frustrating? Actively choose to accept it, join it with Jesus' sacrifice, and ask Him to use it for one intention close to your heart. (And let me know how that goes.)

Related Good Books:
Let Go by Fenelon
In the School of the Holy Spirit by Fr. Jacques Philippe
Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade (pdf)

* Forrest Gump. You know.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

The Lent Project #5 Thirty, Purty* and Thriving

I once got tired of the usual Happy Birthday song, so I wrote my own song. It went:

Happy birthday! You're another year older, but not a lot wiser!
Happy birthday, we want some birthday cake,
We're singing- one step closer, one step closer, one step closer to eternal lii-ii-fife!

Other rejected lyrics

Some people think that's it's morbid that I'm referencing death in a celebration of life. (And that's even after I toned down the lyrics.) But I was inspired by this quote:

Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows. – Pope Paul VI

I turned 30 on Friday. For years I (and most of the world) thought that 30 sounded like a scary-sounding age. The combination on single and 30 sounded especially ominous. Back in the day I used to download free legal mp3 tracks from Amazon, and heard this weird song called '31 Today'. The lyrics went '31 today! I thought my life would be different by now, I thought my life would be different some how.' Kinda depressing, I know.

But on Friday as I looked at my life from the perspective of eternity, I felt nothing but joy. I AM doing what I TRULY want to do, and what I am made for, I am not waiting for tomorrow. I am striving to live a life of holiness and love. I am day by day becoming a lover, as I walk with the original Lover day by day. I am finally inch by inch given up indiscipline, my nemesis, as I have begun to wake up early and go to daily Mass. It sounds like a weird holy person thing, but for years I've wanted to be the kind of person who wakes up early and goes for Mass rather than one who stays up too late reading blogs, and then drags myself out of bed just in time for my first activity of the day.

Up bright and early on my birthday morning

I am learning to be patient with the circumstances I can't control- the fact that I am still single, the discomforts and sacrifices of volunteer life, the difficult people I sometimes have to work with, the little disappointments, even my own weaknesses and sinfulness.

But also I have learned to accept with joy the many, many good gifts that God has given me. This year He has given me the sweet gift of living away from the polluted, fast, big city, in a cleaner, greener, slower small town. I spent the morning of my 30th birthday at 7 am Konkani Mass and then the beach with my family and team. Another sweet gift is that of working this year with families from my organization who have young children who fill my heart with their affectionate caresses. I have been surrounded by friends and family who love me and help me feel loved. I had family travel to spend my birthday with me, a birthday song written for me, cake and presents, and special presentations and videos emailed to me. I was honored and affirmed, I basked in the affection and approval of my family and community. Truly, my cup overflows.

On my birthday morning, the Lord said:

'I will be like the dew for Israel: he shall blossom like the lily; He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar, and put forth his shoots.'

Life with Jesus is nothing but yes. I know there are times when I'm going to be depressed and melancholic, struggle with self-doubt and probably old age at some point.. achy bones and gray hair (that still seems a long way off though). But a life with Him is a life of hope, and growth, and a joy that endures, a life of adventure and new horizons, until the day when I reach the final destination.

Like Papa Francesco says,

Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved.

Lenten challenge: Are you putting of becoming the person God wants you to become? Do it now! There are only so many tomorrows!

* Flirty didn't fit, so purty it was. Also considered were- wordy, quirky, nerdy... (13 going on 30 anyone?)

The Lent Project #4 Nitpicky Church Rules

(Fell off the blogging bandwagon due to life getting busier, laptop refusing to work, and birthday week! Hoping to get back on track now in time to complete 9 blog posts in 3 weeks.. aargh.)

Have you ever...

Gulped down a cup of hot tea while watching the clock because you woke up late, and wanted to make sure you weren't breaking your 1 hour fast before receiving Communion?

Skipped the chicken curry at an event on a Friday in Lent, even though it looks REALLY good?

Felt the growling hunger of 1 normal meal + 2 little meals which do not equal a normal meal on a loong Good Friday or Ash Wednesday?

Forced yourself out of bed on a Sunday morning after a late night Saturday party on a holiday somewhere, just so you would make it for Sunday Mass?

Or maybe you're one of the people who feel "God doesn't care about that stuff" and "I feel as close to God as a park bench so why does it matter if I show up at church?" or "How could God possibly care if I ate my sandwich a half an hour before Communion or an hour?" or "How could missing Sunday Mass possibly be a mortal sin?"

I don't really blame you. Some of our rules sound stupid, or nitpicky. Especially in the day and age of 'Throw out the stupid rules!'and 'Spirit of the law, not the letter', it's easy to think of most rules as optional.

Why would anyone think they were important, and still follow inconvenient or hard-to-see-the-point-of rules? When it comes to many rules of the Catholic Church, most of us feel like Jesus and us have a special understanding where those things don't really matter, or He can make a special exception in our case.

Here is why I still follow even the nitpicky ones (as best as I am able):

1. I'm Catholic because I believe Jesus is the founder of the Catholic Church, and the Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church in all her teachings, and even rules. So, it's not The Big Rule-Obsessed Catholic Church versus It's-All-Cool Homeboy Jesus. Jesus is the Head of the Church. If Jesus says casually missing Sunday Mass is a direct rejection of Him, then it is. If I didn't believe Jesus was the Head of the Church, and spoke through it, I wouldn't be Catholic at all.

2. There is grace in humility and obedience. That doesn't mean blind faith or blind obedience-just doing stuff because anyone says so. But it means taking seriously the faith I profess- I am no longer my own, I belong to Jesus. Trusting God has to mean something. I remember reading somewhere something to the effect that- If your faith allows you do to whatever you feel like at any given moment, and doesn't ask you to do anything hard, then it is not God that you worship, but yourself. Doing something because Jesus asks, affirms a relationship of trust and teachable-ness.

3. Jesus knows what is good for us. The disciplines He asks of us are out of love. When I fast for an hour before Communion, I am more conscious of what is about to happen, Who I am about to meet. I am consciously emptying myself physically and spiritually, instead of casually walking in, unaware of the Guest awaiting me. When I fast and abstain on Fridays, I enter into the suffering of my Jesus, the dying to myself and my bodily desires so that I can awaken my spiritual desires, experience both his death and resurrection in my body.

Simcha Fisher wrote about this a couple of times: How To Obey Like an Adult and Why It's Okay to Say I 'Have' to Go to Mass Today.

The Church gives us obligations because she knows we need them. This is an idea which sets the Church apart from so many other religions: the much-derided “rules and regulations” that the Church lovingly imposes show that the Church understands human nature. If we were only ever invited or encouraged, we’d hardly ever turn up. I’d like to think I’m different, but I know I’m not. [Read the rest here.]
The one thing many of us need to beware of though is the sin of the Pharisee from today's Gospel- of following rules for the sake of feeling good about ourselves, self-righteous, better than others, complacent before God; feeling superior or angry about those who don't do the same. If I find that I am more irritated than compassionate toward those who have no interest in walking in the ways of God, then I have forgotten the spirit, and the letter has become my God.

Lent challenge: Let us humbly seek God's will for us this Lent, as revealed to us by His Church, and obey Him out of love.