Saturday, February 25, 2012

The deeper experience

     Even though I did not get to post yesterday, the reading from Isaiah at liturgy is too important to pass up.  Please bear with me.

     The Lord, through the prophet, calls his people to repentance of their sins and a reform of heart.  He calls them to fasting and penance, but finds that their fasting is self serving and their penance is shallow.  He then calls them to task, and sets out for them what he truly wants, that which will make the necessary difference in the lives of those who respond.

     He says, do you think I want you to sit in ashes, dress in sackcloth and punish yourselves?  Do you think that will satisfy me?  No way!  Rather, I would have you translate your desires and attitude, your sorrow and contrition into action, building up the kingdom of God by responding to the needs of others, by living the law of love, by transforming the selfishness of your sinful lives into the generous spirit of one who knows blessing and is grateful.  I would rather you know by experience the deeper power of repentance and the awesomeness of forgiveness.

     This struck a cord in my thoughts as I recalled a movie that I think I mentioned awhile back in a previous post.  The movie is THE WAY by Emilio Estevez and starring Martin Sheen.  It is about the spiritual pilgrimage of an American doctor - Tom Avery - whose estranged son had died while embarking on the pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, a Catholic pilgrimage route to the tomb of Saint James the Apostle in Santiago de Compostela in Spain.  Tom is not making the journey because he believes, but because he is honoring the desire of his son, carrying his ashes with him.  He meets a few people along the way who are also on the journey for a variety of reasons: a man from Amsterdam whose goal is to lose weight and appeal more to his wife ... a woman from Canada who is escaping an abusive husband and whose goal is to give up smoking ... an Irish writer who wants to get over his writers block and do a travel book.  Each had a goal for themselves, but each, along with Tom, discovered a deeper meaning and a greater truth as they experienced God's transforming grace in their encounters with the needs of each other.  They did not reach their goals through the journey, but each received the much more important blessing that God had in store for them through each other.  It became a true spiritual journey.  By the way, it is a powerful and moving movie for this Lenten season, and I think it can now be purchased or rented.  I watched it again the other day.

     When our fasting, prayer and repentance is transformative, then when we call out to the Lord for help he will answer and say "Here I am!"

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