THE BISHOP'S CROZIER: Reevaluating our priorities during Lent
By Bishop James R. Golka
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life appears, then you will also appear with him in glory. Col 3:2-4
As many of you know, at the end of February my younger sister, Jean, passed away. It has been a very difficult loss. I am grateful and deeply touched by the outpouring of prayers for the repose of her soul and the comfort of my family. I was able to celebrate for her the Rite of Christian Burial in Grand Island the following week. Having so many family members and friends around was a true gift.
It is never easy to lose someone so close. But I am consoled so much by my faith in Christ. In the Prayer of Commendation, we commend the souls of our beloved into the hands of our merciful Father, “in the sure and certain hope that, together with all who have died in Christ, she will rise with him on the last day.” This is our faith and we are blessed to have such hope in Jesus.
These experiences also renew the perspective on what matters most in life. In many ways, that is also what Lent is about. We have died to the world and are called to live with our minds set on what is above. The various disciplines of Lent are meant to help purify our sense of Christian purpose as we seek to rely more and more on God.
One important part of Lent is slowing down to allow God to speak to our hearts. If we are too busy to pray, we are simply too busy. Something needs to change if that is the case. If our attention is more focused on things that consume a lot of time (the internet/TV, busy schedules, shopping, social media, etc.) than on those things that really count (friendship with God, our families and friends, service to our neighbor), Lent is a good time to reprioritize. We can fast from those things that distract us from what matters most in life. In the times I’ve helped someone prepare for death I’ve never heard them say “I wish I watched one more show” or “buying more stuff would have really made me more happy.”
This is also a good reminder that Jesus is the savior of the world, not human beings. It can be overwhelming to read about all the bad things going on in the world and the crises in the Church. We certainly pray for these things. But instead of being overwhelmed or discouraged, we should turn our attention to the lives of those around us. When we get too distracted by global issues we run the risk of doing nothing practical to help those right next door. Rather than obsess with the headline grabbing issues of the day (which are very real), we could invest more in our marriages, families, parishes, schools, and neighborhoods. These real places are filled with real people. Their lives really matter. And this is where the Lord wants us to serve first.
If you remember when the devil tempted Jesus in the desert, the devil said he would give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if he just fell down and worshipped him. Many people are tempted by this same offer today. Some people will do heinous things in their attempt to effect global outcomes. Some will even sell their souls as they try to make the world “a better place.”
Jesus does not work like that. He came to save the world one soul at a time. And this is how his disciples work. Christians are naturally skeptical about large scale strategies to fix things that are broken in the world. Loving the person right next to us, caring for a wounded heart, that is a sure bet, as is bringing the love of God to those we live with, work with, and those we run into along the way. The most important things in life rarely ever make the headlines. To live hidden in Christ is a really great (and impactful) way to live.
Although Lent tends to be more toned down and somber, it brings with it a sense of deep joy as we move towards Easter. That joy comes from allowing God greater access to our hearts and our lives. It speaks of the presence of the Holy Spirit working in us and through us. All of this is a great way to prepare for the joys of Easter and Jesus’ resurrection.
May God bless each of you in this holy season of Lent.