A Word from Our Bishop

By on February 28, 2023

Did you make a new-year’s resolution to “get in shape” this year? I regularly spend time taking stock over the Christmas holiday to sort out the priorities in my life and figure what I need to do. God knows my doctor is always on to me about my weight and I have listened closely to what he has said to be sure I am following instructions. But it is never as easy as all that is it? We are now a good two months into the new year and much of the resolve that came with my new year’s reflection has faded. I think that we may have a bad case of human nature on our hands.

Human nature says so much about our resolve and our ability to see through a task. The number of jokes among my gym-going friends when the crowds of early January thin out so quickly by the third week are significant. Some of my more dedicated gym-going friends hate January because of all the new people who show up and are gone within 6 weeks. Then the gym quiets down to the regular folks who use it at their regular times and the cycle continues.

The Christian life is an example of the need for the disciplines which the Lord taught forming and training us to respond to the highs and lows of our life in the way that a disciple should. Regularity of prayer, focus on and study of the scriptures,

participation in parish worship and fellowship – these are the “going to the gym” of being a Christian disciple. They are the exercises which focus us and form us to be the persons that God has created us to be. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are another set in our repertoire of spiritual exercise. They are meant to break down our ego so that our spirit might be strengthened. This way, Christ can grow in us and continually teach us to live into the promise of eternal life.

If prayer, fasting and almsgiving; regularity of prayer, study of scripture, attendance at worship and fellowship are all the exercises we are meant to use to build up our spiritual muscles, then Lent is the seasonal gym in which we are put through our exercises and seek to develop further.

I have seen personal trainers who encourage and push their clients to reach the goals they have set, and rejoice with them when they achieve the gains they have been attempting while they develop themselves. Lent is slightly different. Lent is a period of time set aside to prepare ourselves for the Easter celebration. It’s not like we are seeking to fit into a better bathing suit – that’s not the kind of preparation I am thinking of – rather, that we are taking the time to focus on the magnitude of God’s love for us, and so we are preparing ourselves to meet him on Good Friday, facing up to our sin, and rejoice with him on Easter Day where we are set free from fear and death.

I should note too that this time set aside for us comes around every year like clockwork because of our human nature. We are meant to do this again and again so that we don’t forget it.  It is only human to be impatient, to lack compassion, to be angry or short with others. It is human nature to be selfish and blind to the needs of others. It is human nature to fail at the goals we have set and hide from responsibility. Scripture tells that whole story from the very beginning in the garden. Human nature will get in the way of our relationships with one another and with God. In order to overcome this we need discipline – and to be disciples.

So it is time to think about our Lenten disciplines, and concentrate hard on our exercise regimen so that we can deepen our relationship with God and be ready to enter into the Paschal mystery more deeply. This practice can and will change our lives if we just stick with it…and the best part is we are not alone while we exercise. We are surrounded by other disciples who are also working to become more patient, kind, compassionate, prayerful, wise or any other number of gifts the Lord would like to lavish upon us.  We only need to get started and now is the time.


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