"Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own."(2 Corinthians 5:15, The Message)
By Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.
I view the 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Holy Week as the most important days in a year’s cycle for all Christians. I call this period the "holy journey," a time that begins with the focus on us, but finds its ending with Christ. Ultimately, it’s a pilgrimage that ends with ourselves in Christ!
Or does it? We’ve been down this road so many times. Have we forgotten the real purpose of Lent?
If you think these solemn days are about giving up something trivial, such as soda or sweets, you’ve missed the point. If you return to your old ways and habits after Easter Sunday, you’ve wasted your time.
This "holy journey" gives you an opportunity to be engaged in a search of your self. Look for the self that is emerging within you, remaking you, pressing upon you, revealing who you really are and the place Christ holds in your life.
The season of Lent calls me to life, not death, for it is the old Bob Hayes I am seeking to change and renew.
Many years ago I read the heartbreaking story of Kathleen Collie. Throughout her neighborhood, she was known as a woman who panhandled, begging for cigarettes and sifting through dumpsters for food. She lived in a rundown apartment. She was called "Garbage Mary."
One afternoon the police stopped "Garbage Mary" on a complaint that she was rummaging through the trash behind a shopping mall. Rather than arrest her, the policemen escorted her back to her $150-a-month apartment.
They were shocked to find garbage everywhere. There was no place to sit because piles of food and clothing cluttered the entire place. It was appalling.
But they were dumbfounded by what they found while going through the debris.
They found Mobile Oil stock worth more than $400,000; papers indicating that Kathleen Collie owned Kansas oilfields; stock certificates from such firms as U.S. Steel and Uniroyal; and passbooks from eight large banks, showing accounts with large deposits in all of them.
They realized "Garbage Mary" was a millionaire, but she lived like a beggar.
Spiritually, you and I are no better off than Kathleen Collie. We are wealthier than we will ever know, yet we live as spiritual beggars because we don’t avail ourselves of the tremendous gift God has willed for us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ!
We live off crumbs when God has prepared a feast of love that we fail to claim as our own.
Jesus said, "He who seeks to save his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for my sake will find it."
As you take this holy journey these 40 days, why not lose the outer self, the part of you that keeps you from finding real life? Instead, together let us look for our inner selves, the part of us willing to give up on meager scraps of garbage so we can claim our inheritance at the end of our trek.
This Lent I invite Christ into my life to clean up those dark places in my self. This year I will affirm my sinful nature and seek forgiveness of the wrongs I have committed. This year, I will celebrate the fact that Jesus included me in his death so I could also be included in his life.
As I seek to accomplish all these during this sacred season, I will know what real Lent looks like. In doing so, my life will be far better than I could design on my own.
Pray with me:
Oh, gracious and ever-loving God, the hidden source of calm repose and all sufficient grace and love, what we know about ourselves drives us to our knees for correction and redemption. During this season of Lent, turn our minds to him who died on Calvary, deliver us from any smugness that life in eternity will be ours by inherent right. Forgive us, oh God, and instill within us your love that is enduring, your grace that is sufficient, and your peace that passes all understanding. Through the matchless name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.