Taking on a Sense of Urgency

Sense of urgency.

Ugh.

Those three words make my blood run cold. You see, I’m a don’t-just-do-something-stand-there kind of guy who believes that slow and steady wins the race. I equate “sense of urgency” with thoughtless activity for activity’s sake. It stands in sharp contrast with my usual approach to spirituality, which is more “Be still and know that I am God.”

That said, this passage from the Ash Wednesday reading from the prophet Joel practically screams “sense of urgency” (Joel 2:15-16):

Blow the trumpet in Zion!
proclaim a fast,
call an assembly;
Gather the people,
notify the congregation;
Assemble the elders,
gather the children
and the infants at the breast;
Let the bridegroom quit his room
and the bride her chamber.

So does this one from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 6:2):

Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.

So what’s going on here?

My measured, reasoned approach carries with it a very real danger that nothing gets done. Sometimes I’m so busy contemplating or considering my options that I miss my window of opportunity.

Some things can’t wait: recognition of my own sin, appreciation of my need for God’s mercy, repentance, turning to God, strengthening my relationship with God.

I don’t need to consider. I don’t need to contemplate. I just need to do. Now.

Lent 2014: Let’s Get Real

By C.R. Horner

Okay, Lent’s coming up fast. Ash Wednesday is March 5. (When are you getting your ashes? Check Mass times if you haven’t already.)

Lent, the 40 days leading to the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus during Holy Week, is a time of reflection, penance, and sacrifice.  Have you thought and prayed about what you’re doing for Lent this year? The days leading up to Ash Wednesday are the time to prepare.

We often associate Lent with “giving up” something. Ideally, the “giving up” during these 40 days leads to breaking bad habits that may be keeping us from getting closer to God.

Another way of approaching the season is to start good habits that will bring us closer to God.

So, in the context of the ancient practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, here are some real-life, practical suggestions for starting habits that will strengthen our relationship with God.

Prayer

No matter how strong our prayer life is, we can always improve. Here are some practices to consider:

  • Read a chapter of one of the gospels every day. Start with the Gospel of Matthew, which is the first gospel and the one we’re listening to during Sunday Mass throughout this liturgical year. If you read one chapter a day, you can finish the Gospel of Matthew and nearly the entire Gospel of Mark by Easter. If you keep at it, you can finish the Gospels of Luke and John by Pentecost. And at the end of that time, you’ll have a much better idea of who Jesus is.
  • Spend 10 minutes in silence every day, just listening for what God has to say to you.
  • Go to Mass one more day a week than you’re going already (unless, of course, you’re already going seven days a week).
  • Read a Catholic book. Two books on my Lenten reading list are The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis and The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton.

Fasting

The ancient practice of fasting helps us to join more fully in the suffering of Christ through denial of physical comforts. In addition to abstaining from meat on Fridays this Lent, consider one of the following:

  • Pick a day other than Friday as a fast day: two small meals and a regular-size meal
  • Choose a meal on a day other than Friday to abstain from meat. Offer up this meal to God as a sacrifice.

Almsgiving

The practice of giving alms, or monetary donations, is another ancient tradition that reveals an eternal truth: small sacrifices can increase our faith and bring us closer to God. Some suggestions:

  • Take the money you’re saving on food from your fasting practices (see above) and donate it to the Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl campaign.
  • If you are already tithing a percentage of your income, consider increasing it by one percent (for instance, if you now give five percent of your salary to your parish or other organizations, raise it to six percent for Lent). Dedicate this increased giving to organizations that work directly with the poor.
  • Give alms of your time and treasure. Consider a volunteer opportunity, either on a one-time or ongoing basis.

 The list could go on endlessly, but you get the idea: to get more out of Lent, put more into Lent. Most importantly, start with prayer. Ask God what you’re being called to this Lent, listen to the response, and put it into action.