Fr Leo Proxell

Fr Leo Proxell

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The book of Ecclesiastes is from the Wisdom literature of the Hebrew Bible. We hear in that book, “there is an appointed time for everything and a time for every affair under the heavens.” (Ecc 3/1).

In the Christian tradition, we celebrate the season of Lent beginning on Ash Wednesday. That celebration was on last Wednesday. The season of Lent gives us an opportunity to reflect on our lives in regard to our relationship with God in Christ, our Savior. It is a time of preparation for the coming Feast of Easter and the glorious Resurrection of the Lord. As with all religious traditions, we make a time to recall our sinfulness leading to a recognition of our need for the mercy and love of our God. In the Catholic tradition, we always use the biblical injunction to pray, fast and give alms.

To pray is the first discipline of our faith. Our “talking with God,” and its counterpart, “to listen to God,” is a vital part of any religious journey. It is the way we enter deeply into the Lord’s presence. Opening ourselves to Christ’s presence in the world and in our lives, leads to the compassionate care for others that Christ gave as His central commandment. Without prayer, we simple disconnect with God’s grace and we are on our own. We can’t travel well without the Lord, so such a disconnect leads us to getting lost in the various distractions and furies of the world.

To help us keep focused on our quest for holiness, we need to activate the second discipline of fasting. We tend to carry too much with us (sins, doubts, fears, anger, bitterness etc.) and need to periodically jettison that baggage so we can continue the search for the goodness of God in our lives and in the world. Often, in the Catholic tradition, we were taught to “give up” something like candy or sweets or TV to help remove the distractions of life, so we could see Jesus more clearly. A few years ago, Pope Francis suggested we “give up” angry words, grudges, fear, disappointments, pride and selfishness. This list is a great way to live Lent close to God. I used to always say I gave up broccoli and trips to the Bahamas for Lent ... not much of a sacrifice.

Today the word sacrifice is not used much and is practiced even less. But it is when we give ourselves away, that we are free to invite the Lord to spend time with us. We tend to spend too much time making sure our ego gets everything it wants. Lent offers us the opportunity to expand our horizons to see the whole world as a place to live and love. Coincidently, coming as we move into Spring, Lent is a time to “clean out the attic,” and make more room for what is important. It is a time to prepare for new growth.

Last, but not least, is the call to give alms. Our world is always in great need. Our local community is in great need. Reach out with some level of help, financial or otherwise. The Gallatin Valley has so many organizations fore volunteers to give some of the most precious of our gifts, the gift of time.

Not a time to beat up on ourselves, Lent is instead, a time to open ourselves to the needs of the world and attend to one another. In this time of pandemic, there is profound need to just connect with others. The darkness is receding, the light increases, and the goodness of God is everywhere. Happy Lent everyone!

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Fr Leo Proxell is pastor of Holy Rosary Catholic Church in downtown Bozeman.