Lent is a wonderful time that brings us closer to God. It provides us with the opportunity to renew our relationship with God and others. It is a forty-day journey to the memorial of the Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. Traditionally we begin the Lenten journey with the imposition of ashes, as a reminder of just how fragile our lives really are. We are dust and to dust we shall return. We are also reminded that we are
sinners and, that we must turn from our sin and turn to God. However, because of our sinful nature we are totally unable to save ourselves. We therefore need someone who has the power to save us. Scripture tells us that the Lord Jesus who is sinless and perfect has taken on our sin and paid the penalty for it once for all. Nevertheless, during this journey, the Church recommends fasting or abstinence, prayers and works
of charity as penance for our own sin and other people’s sin.

        Today’s gospel story reminds us that we are not alone on this journey. We journey with Jesus. Mark writes that the Spirit of God drove Jesus into the desert to fast and pray and to be tempted by Satan. It was the same Spirit who came upon him at his baptism. Both at baptism and during temptation Jesus willingly allowed himself to be like any of us even though he was the Son of God. He was in the desert alone by himself. At the same time, he was not alone. He still continued to enjoy fellowship with God. That’s why the angels ministered to him throughout his time in the desert. During the time spent in the desert, Jesus experienced real suffering and was engaged in a real battle with a real enemy but God guarded him from all harm and dangers because of his obedience to Him. After the desert experience, Jesus went to Galilee and preached the good news of God. He proclaimed that Israel’s long wait for God’s promises would soon be fulfilled. However, they were to repent and believe in the gospel first. As we enter into the first week of the Lenten season Mark calls our attention to two things:

1.        Jesus’ temptation is a consolation to us. All of us experience the lure of evil. We cannot escape temptation, but when it comes, we can resist it, that is, say “no” to it. As we struggle with temptation we can also be certain that Jesus can identify with us in our struggle and our loneliness. Moreover, He will send His angels to guard us from all harm and danger.

2.        Jesus’ preaching is an invitation to us to truly repent and believe in the gospel. Real repentance is not just being sorry for or regretting the consequences of sin but also hating or feeling sorrowful because of the sin itself. But sadly, many tend to continue to live in sin as long as they are able to escape the consequences of sin. So, if we say we are sorry for our sin let us truly repent for our sin. We must not just repent for our sin but also believe in the gospel. Believing in the gospel simply means to take Jesus at his word. We must believe that God is the kind of God that Jesus is talking about. We must believe that God so loves the world that He will make any sacrifice to bring us back to Himself. We must believe that all that Jesus says does not just sound true but is really true.

       Let us utilize the coming days to draw closer to God. Let us quietly open ourselves to God and prayerfully offer to Him all the sacrifices we make during this time. Let us listen more attentively to the good news of God in the coming days. Let us truly repent for our sins and make ourselves ready for the fullness of grace brought forth through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.

God Bless You! Father Valan Arockiaswamy, SVD



If You Wish

       “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him “I do will it, be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.

      How often have we prayed a prayer similar to the prayer of the man with leprosy? Our prayer might have been something like, “Help me Lord, I am in dire straits, my bills are due and I do not have the money to pay them”. It could be: “Help me Lord, I am buried under this pile of work and can’t seem to find the daylight. Or it might be: “Help me Lord, for I am in the grasp of the evil one and I can’t seem to get free.” Sound familiar?

       Like leprosy eats away at ones flesh, sin eats away at a person’s heart. If a person’s heart is not right, how could their minds be right? Minds cluttered with sin can not make choices best suited to attaining one’s salvation.

       I recently had the opportunity to hear the witness of several people who had asked God to clean up the messes in their lives. Their messes, similar to the messes we all have in our lives. Each one began with “I’ve never shared this with anyone before” or, “I’ve never told anyone about this until now.”

         One such story came from the mother of a son who had fallen into addiction. She says she begged, pleaded and cried for God to heal her son from his addiction. She felt like God wasn’t answering her prayer. She even resorted to fussing with God about her son’s addictions. Her son’s addiction had placed a chasm between mother and son, between sisters and brother. One day she finally decided to “let go and let God” take her worries and concerns. The situation didn’t turn pretty right away. As a matter of fact it turned worse. Her son was arrested and sent to jail. It was in jail that the son’s healing began.

I do will it, be made clean

      Another story came from a man whose mother was way too domineering.  She was constantly telling her son and his wife how they were raising their children all wrong. The man was emotionally drained from hearing how he and his wife were not the parents they should be. It wasn’t long that communication between the mother and son stopped. For a number of years they didn’t speak to each other. The man realized that the relationship between himself and his mother was not the relationship God intended them to have. He said when he forgave his mother, he began to hear her criticisms through what he described as a sort of “filter.” He came to realize that his mother’s intentions were in the right place, but she just couldn’t articulate her thoughts in a subtle Christian manner. Today, his mother needs constant care, and she is living with her son and his wife. Through forgiveness, their relationship is healed.

I do will it, be made clean.

        Then there was the story of the man who like the leper lived on the outer fringes of the Church. He didn’t hate the Church, he just didn’t feel the need to belong to it. His wife, is a cradle catholic. His children were all raised Catholic. He didn’t hinder them from their faith, as a matter of fact he strongly encouraged them to practice their faith. It was just that their faith wasn’t for him. One day he felt that something was missing in his life. He attended Mass with his wife and it dawned on him that he wanted the joy his wife had. And as he looked around at the people in the Church, they seemed to have the same joy his wife had. As he watched them proceed up the aisle, hands and arms outstretched to receive the body and blood of Christ, he discovered what was missing in his life. Not long after he began the RCIA process, and received the cleansing waters of baptism.

I do will it, be made clean.

         We all have messes in our lives. It might not be an addiction, or a domineering mother. It might not be an indifference to the church. If our lives were perfect, we wouldn’t be sitting in this church today would we? God loves us in our messes. He wants us to come to him with our messes so he can begin the process of healing us. Like the leper, we only need to give our messes to God and let him clean us up!

Deacon Ken