Each year Be Transfigured Ministries offers a Daily Lenten Journey Blog to assist you in maintaining a holy focus during the struggle that is the Great Fast. This year, we invite you to do just a little bit more than you did last year during the Great Fast. It is not our goal to be your spiritual father. Not only is that not possible since we only “know each other” through blog posts and videos, but because our Holy Tradition is to have a spiritual relationship with our Father Confessor. He is responsible to God to guide you in the proper director for your salvation.
On the final Sunday before the Great Fast, the Church reminds us of the importance of forgiveness in our salvation. Without forgiveness, there is no salvation. When we refuse to forgive others for what they may have done against us, we forget that all sin is against God, and it is His sole discretion to forgive. If we refuse to forgive, it is because we have placed ourselves as greater than God. If God is willing to forgive, who are we to refuse? We must take the responsibility for our sin of pride and ego, or we will never ask for forgiveness.
We live in a 24-hour society built on the concept that staying busy, whether it be making money or perfecting a hobby, is the litmus test for a successful life. More and more adults delay retirement not because they can’t afford to retire, although that is true for many, but because they can’t stand the idea of not going to work in the morning. We start this busy agenda from a young age. School have drastically reduced recess time to allow for classroom time, while after-school activities are no longer limited to after school.
The Great Fast is only a few days away. If you follow the fasting rules of the Church, you have already begun to fast from meat. If you really like meat, you may wonder if you can make it all the way to Pascha. If you’re new to fasting, you’re almost sure you won’t make it unless something greater than you love for meat serves as your encouragement. All week the Church has been reminding us of what lies ahead.
On the final Sunday of the Triodion, the day before Holy and Great Lent, our hearts and minds are focused on the blessed opportunity for forgiveness. We call this day, Forgiveness Sunday, and the Gospel lesson begins with the truth, “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6.14-15)
What if when we die, we all end up in the same place? What if we all end up in heaven? What if we don’t like being in heaven? The story of the Last Judgment found in Matthew 25.31-46 lays out the criteria Christ will use in our judgment. Are we able to see others in the same way Christ sees them? The story isn’t about making a list of required tasks, but rather whether how we see others. If we can’t see them in the same light that Christ see them, we may not recognize heaven when we get there.
Half way through the Triodion, and we have been reminded that we are all sinners in need of repentance, and that when one does repent and return home, we must welcome them with open arms. On the third Sunday of Triodion, known as Judgment Sunday, we are reminded of another danger.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son teaches more than just repentance. It also teaches those who “never left” that we are called to welcome home those who left the Church. When they return home, it will be our opportunity to restore them to the original honor and status they enjoyed before leaving. If we are unable to welcome them home, and be filled with the same joy as the Lord at their return, we will be the ones who find ourselves outside the kingdom.
I often hear Christians challenge the “need” for “organized religion” in their life. Many believe the Christian journey is about a singular relationship with Jesus Christ. Many believe that so long as they believe in the hear that Jesus is Lord, there is no “need” to be part of a Church community. In fact this is such a large demographic of Christians, that researchers have coined them “nones” because they belong to no denomination or Church.
The Church helps us see to silliness in having pride when it comes to our spiritual journey. “Thank You God! I’m not like all the other sinners in the Church!” If we ever witnessed a Church leader begin prayer with such a ridiculous prayer, we would turn away and run for the hills. On the other hand, Christian humility isn’t about calling ourselves ugly names either. True Christian humility is about being honest with where we are in life. True Christian humility helps us see that we are all sinners and we need God’s mercy.