Today’s Gospel contains my favorite scripture verse, Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,and all these things will be given you besides.” I suppose I like this line, this promise of Jesus so much, because it delivers to us a beautiful promise straight from the lips of the Lord. He says that as long as we follow after God, as long as we seek him with a sincere heart and with all we’ve got, everything takes care of itself. We have a temptation to want to always take care of things ourselves and then, if there’s time, follow God. We get it backwards. This line reminds us Jesus is our Shepherd and we don’t have to worry. We just need to follow, to seek after him. He’ll cover the rest.
Now I want to think about how we do that, how we seek first the Kingdom. Lent is almost here, and we have three traditional ways of seeking after God a little more deliberately and intentionally during this season: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Might I suggest we do one concrete thing for each of these. It is a good thing to pray now about what we might be called to do.
Prayer. We all know we need prayer. What might we do concretely to pray better during Lent?
- I’ve been on a kick about kneeling lately. When we look at the most heartfelt prayers the Bible, folks imploring God’s mercy and miracle-power, we see them kneeling. Jesus kneels when he prays to the Father. We kneel in the Holy Mass. But what if, during Lent, we made a promise to kneel for 15 minutes a day? Kneeling is a posture of humility, of need, of repentance. If you can’t kneel, don’t try!
- What if, during Lent, we made a resolve to pray a rosary a day as a family?
- Or visit a holy place like St. Meinrad or the Abbey of Gethsemane in Kentucky?
- What if we read a good Catholic book? St. John Bosco said, read a good Catholic book and your life will never be the same.
- What if we traded a half hour of SportsCenter for EWTN?
- Folks! The possibilities are endless! PRAY heroically!
Fasting. We need to fast. Fasting is a way of emptying ourselves from worldly things in order to make room for the spiritual things–and that’s the whole point of the gospel today. Fasting asks this question: What is in my life, that can’t be in my life if I want to seek first the Kingdom of God??? What tangible things can we do to fast?
- Food. I’m traditional enough to say we should all fast from food at least in some ways this Lent. You see the rice bowls in the narthex. A good part of the world eats on 20 cents a day. We do not need to be eating as much as we eat. We should give up something hard, something noticeable. Snacks, meat, something uncomfortable.
- Video games. What if, you young folks, you gave up video games after dinner? You could still play them after school, but after dinner is off the table.
- TV. Most Americans watch some 10 years of television in their lives. That’s insane! I don’t think Mother Teresa did that, or any of the saints for that matter. What if during Lent you limit yourself to an hour a day?
- Facebook. We can all get addicted to social meda–facebook, instagram, texting, snapchat. What if during Lent we said, only five minutes for facebook today? You can still login and wish happy birthday and see who’s getting married and who’s doing this or that, but then you’re out after five minutes.
Almsgiving. We give alms in order to seek first the Kingdom. Some ideas:
- Young folks: What if you resolved to give your mother a hug every day?
- What if you resolved to write a letter every day to someone?
- What if you resolved to give more in the collection?
- What if you resolved to help in the food pantry?
- What if you resolved to find a place to volunteer?
So many ideas! Do what the Holy Spirit calls you to do, but be sure to ask him….and make it good. Whatever your sacrifices in prayer, fasting and almsgiving–I’ve go two things to say:
- Your sacrifices should be hard! Because that sacrifice–what Jesus did on the cross–that was hard! Like Mother Angelica said, if you’re comfortable, you’re not doing Christianity right.
- Your sacrifices will produce so much fruit–because that sacrifice–what Jesus did on the cross–that produced more fruit than we could possibly imagine! Our sacrifices we unite to that. Do any of the things I’ve suggested, and your life will be changed. Your Church will be changed. Your family will be changed. Your world!
Last thing. Let’s just not forget. The reason we fast, pray and give alms….it is not just because we do it. It is because we want to seek first the Kingdom of God!!!
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,and all these things will be given you besides.”