Monday, March 6, 2017

First Sunday of Lent: Our Identity

Monday greetings to all on this Lenten weekday.

Yesterday at my parish, Old Saint Patrick's here in Chicago, I attended the 9:30 Mass "downstairs" in the parish hall. It's a more intimate space than the church and functions as an overflow Mass space, especially when there is a family centered Mass upstairs in the church, as was the case yesterday.

Fr. Tom Hurley, our pastor, was the celebrant and homilist. He preached one of the finest First Sunday of Lent homilies I have heard. As you may know, I am a proponent of the Second Vatican Council's impetus for a recovery of the "two strands" of Lent, the baptismal and the penitential. Too often, parishes and homilists focus solely on the penitential character of the season. Yesterday's homily was a great example of a focus on the baptismal, even though Fr. Tom never made specific reference to the baptismal character of the season. What he did do was remind us that these particular Sunday readings invite us to focus on our identity, of who we are as the Body of Christ. He pointed to the fact that just before the temptations in the desert, Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan, the skies opened, and the identity of Jesus was announced as the heaven's opened: "This is my beloved Son." The devil then tried to re-identify Jesus through the temptations, but Jesus remained steadfast in the identity announced from on high.

Lent, we were reminded, is about claiming our own identity, who we really are in the eyes of God. I so appreciated Fr. Tom's homily; it set me on the right track for this holy season.

I don't know about you, but I appreciate Lent each year. My path toward the heavenly banquet often takes some twists and turns, sometimes some detours, sometimes some unfortunate 180 degree spins. Fr. Tom helped remind me yesterday that Lent is all about refocusing on the "right path for his name's sake." By prodding us to consider our own identity (and I would name that identity as the identity stamped on our hearts at Baptism), we were helped to remember who we are and whose we are.

I was able to grab Fr. Tom for just a few seconds to thank him after Mass. I am hoping that the path continues to be a good one as Lent unfolds. I pray the same for you.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

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