Jl 2:12-18 – Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 12-13, 14 and 17 - 2 Cor 5:20—6:2 - Mt 6:1-6, 16-18
Peace Huts Retreat
Before I became a Deacon I helped out at a retreat center on the Colorado Prairie that was called the Peace Huts. The Peace Huts was really a “back-to-basics” kind of place. When I went on retreat we had to use an outhouse, cook on a wood-fired stove and walk a mile one way to fetch water.
Retreating is about getting into the basics of your faith
The beauty of taking a retreat is that they help us to focus on the basics of our faith; our relationship with God, our family and our friends. Taking a spiritual retreat enables us to leave the distractions behind, and to spend time focusing on our relationship with God. We do this with prayer, with listening, with serving one another and with fasting. The fruit of a good spiritual retreat is that it leads us closer to the heart of God.
Lent – The Church on Retreat
Lent is the time when all of us go on retreat. We stop our lives for a moment, so that we can take some time to grow in our relationship with Christ. Ash Wednesday is one of the most popular days of the Church year, because on Ash Wednesday the Church all over the world begins her retreat. Lent is the time when we work at our relationship with God.
Begin with Simplicity – Simplifying your life
When we go on retreat we need to begin in simplicity. Being on retreat means going to a quiet, out of the way place so that we can hear God. For us, for this Lent, it means that we need to take a mental inventory of the busyness in our life so that we can pare it down to what is essential. To help us to do this we begin Lent with fasting, abstaining from meat. Fasting helps us to focus on our prayer life, so that we can listen to Jesus with our heart.
Repent – Change your heart!
During Lent we are called to repent – which means to change your life so that you can fall more deeply in love with God.
Fasting and Abstinence
During Lent the Church calls us to abstain from eating meat on Fridays. (This means that we can only eat vegetables and fish – no chicken, no pork, no steak because eating simple food reminds us to change our lives.
Fasting is a way of quieting our stomach, of reminding our body that the needs of the soul (which will live forever) are more important than the needs of the body. Fasting allows us to listen to God. The first step to listening is ridding yourself of these things that distract you from Him. What is distracting you from God? Television? Video Games? Gambling? Alcohol? Lying? Pornography? Now is the time to change, repent, and make more room for God by trimming away one of the excesses in your life!
Pray All Ways
When we go on retreat we make an effort to spend time praying with God because prayer is an essential element of our relationship with God. We can pray the Rosary, the Psalms, the Scriptures, the Mass, spend time listening, or praising God in song.
Lent too is a time to increase our prayer life – to increase the time we spend with God. During Lent we are encouraged to take time to speak and listen to God. If you don’t know how to do this then come to the Church this Friday night at 6:00 PM for Soup Supper and the Stations of the Cross. We will share a simple meal and then spend time meditating on the Passion of Our Lord. Think of it as watching the Passion of the Christ from within your heart.
During Lent it is important to receive the sacrament of penance. There will be time for confession every Wednesday and Thursday night. Many of us have not been to confession for a long time – do not worry – the Father’s here will help you to make a good confession, so that you can be freed from sin. In today’s reading God begs us to return to him with our whole heart – so that we are able to receive His blessing of love and healing.
God will heal your heart
Whenever we take time for a retreat God will heal us – sometimes in a small way, sometimes in a big way. He changes our hearts by stretching them a little. God stretches our hearts by filling with His love, and as a result we end up making more and more room for Him in our lives because we become more and more hungry for His love. The more our heart is filled with God’s love, the easier it is for us to avoid the sin’s that are killing us.
Peace Huts is more than a Burlap Sack – Ash Wednesday is more than a black cross on your forehead!
The retreats that I used to attend at the Peace Huts began with an exercise of simplicity – We would have to empty out the bag that we brought our stuff in and then pack what we NEEDED into a burlap sack. Over the years I learned that going on a retreat is not about packing all of my stuff into a burlap bag and walking out into the middle of the prairie, but rather it is about opening myself up to the possibility of God’s love. Going on a retreat is about setting aside our busy lives for a little while so that we can learn to listen to God. Going on a retreat is about getting rid of those habits that I have that are killing my relationship my creator.
In the same way Ash Wednesday is more than receiving a small black cross on our foreheads – it is about setting aside what we think we need for fasting, acts of charity and penance. Ash Wednesday is about allowing ourselves the opportunity to listen to God. Ash Wednesday is about making a little more room in our hearts with our prayers, our charity and our actions so that we can be filled with the love of God.