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Third Sunday in Lent ©

Scriptural Readings: Exodus 3:1-8A, 13-15; Psalms: 103:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 11; 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12; Luke 13:1-9

My dear encountered couples:

Here we are to the third Sunday of Lent already. Time moves along quickly, doesn’t it? Before we know it, Easter will be here. I hope you have been using the past two and a half weeks to your advantage. Whatever it takes to help you find happiness, I hope that is what you have been doing. Yes, you heard me correctly. Whatever it takes to help you find happiness, I hope that is exactly what you have been devoting your-self to so far this Lent. And I hope you will continue doing it.

There has been a rumor going around for centuries that Lent is supposed to be a time of sadness. A long six and a half weeks of making ourselves miserable - for love of God, of course. Some people think we are supposed to be unhappy our entire lives. They think God enjoys us being unhappy, that he is happiest when we are the most miserable, that God’s favorite time of the year is Lent when we are down on our knees and starving ourselves. Do you believe that? Do you think God enjoys seeing you unhappy, that he wants you to be miserable? Nothing can be farther from the truth.

Can you imagine a father or mother wanting their children to be miserable? I thought it was the job of parents to do all they can to see to it that their children find happiness. Aren’t that what parents being for? I can’t imagine anybody having children for the purpose of making them unhappy. The task of parents, the job description so to speak, is to see to it that their children get all they need for happiness. I suspect you children are all for that idea. So am I.

I want to be happy. And I intend to do all I can this Lent, as well as during the rest of the year, to make myself happy. Does that sound selfish to you? Does that sound irreligious? I am saying no more than that I intend to show myself proper respect by seeing to it that I get what God created me for. God made me to know him, to love him, to do his will, and be happy with him forever in heaven. And I intend to do all I can to see that it happens. Being happy with God and all my friends forever in heaven is something I often dream about. And I intend to do all I can to see that my dream comes true. Lent is to help us accomplish that.

Lent is a time for reminding us that we are God’s creation; that we are to love him; that we are to seek happiness in him. Which is basically saying: we are to treat ourselves with respect. The Church is reminding us, in case we have forgotten it, that we have quality and worth; that we have value and importance. We are being told by lawful Church authority to hold ourselves in high esteem, to give ourselves due attention and consideration, to be sure we value ourselves as God values us, to love ourselves as God loves us.

You are important, not only to your family and friends; you are an apple in God’s eye. To God you are very special. If you weren’t, he wouldn’t have created you. You are his work of art. And like all works of art you are to be treated with the highest respect, not merely by others, but by yourself.

Some of us obviously don’t do that. We don’t treat ourselves with high respect. Many of us show little respect for ourselves. We don’t take care of our bodies or our souls. We eat, drink, and smoke things that can harm us. We exercise little, don’t get enough sleep, don’t broaden our minds by reading and studying?

Many of us don’t take sufficient care of our souls by praying more attentively and lovingly, by trying harder to resist temptation. All this has to do with how much or how little we respect ourselves.

Some of us don’t even have respect for our things. All we have to do is take a good look at how we treat our clothes, our houses, our cars. Do we hang up our clothes or leave them lying around where they fall and walk on them? Do we clean our houses or leave them littered with remnants of snacks, papers, cigarette ashes, and junk mail, with dust and pet hair covering it all? How high are the dishes stacked in the sink? Reminds me of the priest who said, “My favorite time is Lent. It’s when I give up washing dishes.”

Ever look inside some people’s cars? Some are worse than a teenager’s bedroom. They look like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Taco Bells unloaded their dumpsters into them. How much we respect and take care of our things might give us a good hint of how much we respect and take care of ourselves. And the respect we show ourselves has a lot to do with how serious we are about achieving happiness, real happiness. In other words, do we respect ourselves, do we do what is best for ourselves, are we doing what is really going to give us the happiness we are always looking for?

As you have probably guessed, the happiness I’m talking about is not what the world calls happiness. It is much more than a passing pleasure, a night on the town, a weekend cruise, or even a trip around the world. The happiness I’m talking about lasts forever. It is real happiness, genuine happiness, never ending happiness. It is God’s type of happiness, divine, eternal. What the world often calls happiness is not happiness at all. It is an illusion.

Lent is a time for the pursuit of God’s happiness - the same happiness loving and wise parents want for their children, and they will do all they can to make sure it happens. That’s the happiness God wants for you, and is doing all he can to make sure you get it. God doesn’t want your life to end in an eternity of misery.

“At that time,” Luke writes in his gospel, “some were present who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. He said in reply: ‘Do you think that these Galileans were the greatest sinners in Galilee just because they suffered this? By no means! But I tell you, you will all come to the same end unless you reform. Or take those eighteen who were killed by a falling tower in Siloam. Do you think they were more guilty than anyone else who lived in Jerusalem? Certainly not! But I tell you, you will all come to the same end unless you begin to reform.’”

God our Father wants happiness for all of us, everlasting happiness. We are to do for ourselves whatever it takes to achieve that happiness. According to Jesus that means we must reform. Want to make a good Lent? There is nothing stopping you. Making a good Lent is just a matter of exercising self-respect.


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