Message: It may requires some fasting, but make a daily time of prayer.
On Ash Wednesday I mentioned the survey many of you took last Lent. I will use the results as baseline for Lent this year. The results show wonderful news, good news and bad news.
The wonderful news is this: 41% say "My relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important relationship in my life." An additional 40% say, "I have personally encountered Jesus Christ and am growing as a disciple." Four out of five parishioners have encountered Jesus personally. They want to grow as disciples and make it the most important relationship. That's wonderful news.
Along with that wonderful news we have some good news - and some bad news. The good and bad news relates to prayer. Prayer, of course, expresses and deepens the relationship with Jesus. The good news is that 61% have an individual prayer time with God every day. The bad news that the other 39% have a prayer time only once a week, once a month - or less. That's not so good. And when we ask about specific devotions it gets worse. Devotions include Scripture reading, Liturgy of Hours, Lectio Divina, rosary, prayer before Jesus in the Blessed sacrament. Only 23% say they practice some daily devotion. That means more than 3 out of every four don't.
We can do better. You and I need some daily practice of prayer if we are going connect with Jesus and grow our relationship with him.
Today we hear about Jesus going into the desert for 40 days. Why the desert? In the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures, God takes his people into the desert so he can woo them. It's a time of courtship. Do you remember how great it was when you met that special person? You wanted to spend every possible moment together. So God wants in our relationship with him. Prayer means to block out time for God.
Notice that in the desert Jesus fasts. He joins fasting to prayer - and so should we. If you are going to pray you have to fast. Begin with observing the requirement to abstain from meat on Friday: no burgers, no chicken, no bacon. Consider giving up some other favorite food and replacing it with fruit and veggies. You'll have more energy to pray.
People say they don't have time to pray, to say the rosary, to read a Psalm, to visit the Blessed Sacrament or to meditate on a Scripture reading. But then the same person does have time for a favorite TV or radio program, video games, Internet, Facebook, a hobby - all potentially good things, as are Big Macs and fried chicken. Sometimes we need to fast from good things in order to accomplish the first things. That's what Lent is about.
It's significant that this First Sunday of Lent falls on Valentine's Day. During Lent we go to the desert to remember our first love. Do you recall St. Paul's words? Love is patient. It does not brood over injuries. Love never fails. Love involves more than emotions. Love is a decision and ultimately a gift from God. By prayer we ask for the gift of love.
Next week we will see what happens as a result of prayer. We'll see some survey results and again I have good news and bad news. For today take this message: If you want a relationship to Jesus and if you want that relationship to be the most important one, you've got to pray. And to maintain and grow the relationship with Jesus, pray. It may requires some fasting, but make a daily time of prayer. If you want the gift of love, pray. By the Spirit Jesus will take to the Father. As he tells us today: "You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve." Amen.
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