Hi everyone, and welcome to Weekly Homilies with Father Mark Suslenko, Pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. We are part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. I'm Carol Vassar, parish director of communications, and you're listening to Season 4, Episode 10 for the First Sunday of Lent: February 21, 2021. Our Gospel reading is from Mark, Chapter 1, verses 12-15
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.
After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
The Gospel of the Lord
What Do We Truly Own? by Rev. Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut
The famous poet, e e cummings once penned something that can be very useful to our framing of our season of Lent. He said, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
Many human beings take their development of self simply as it comes. There's no frame of reference and no pattern of growth. How life portrays itself today is how I respond, and how I act in kind. In fact, we live in a society that is very entrenched in entitlement; in getting what we want when we want it. regardless of the cost that it may have on someone else.
We want our comforts. We want what we think we need in order to be safe, secure, and well-off, and often will pursue any effort to achieve what we think we really need. This age of entitlement allows us to insulate ourselves from any type of challenge. Don't tell me what to do. Don't expect me to be anything other than what I want and desire, and don't tell me there are any benchmarks to growth or being a human being.
A person entrenched in entitlement also has no room for God, for if I don't find guide posts in other areas of life, how can I allow God to tell me any better than what I already know?
And so this season of Lent is really an opportunity for all of us to find the courage to grow up and become who we really are.
You see those words weren't meant to be heard by children. They were meant to be heard by adults who just because they've gained a few years doesn't mean they've done so maturely. To have the courage to become who we really are is what Lent puts before us. Because its a beautiful and very simple sacrificial season reminds us that we are not who the world tells us we are. We are not who others expect us to be. We're not even who we want ourselves to be. Our calling, our essence, our personhood is rooted in God, and without a sense of God's presence, we cannot, no human beings can, become who they really are.
In this age of entitlement, we can all too easily become focused on what we have and what we don't have. We look at all of the things that surround our lives and we call them ours: my house, my car, my bank account, my dogs, my children. Think how often during the course of a day we use the word “my.” Do we ever stop and think what it is actually that we truly own? What is it that we truly own?
None of what you call yours is really, and truly yours. Everything that we have that we consider “our” possessions, “our” stuff, “our" securities exists only because of the gratitude and grace of God. It isn't given to us to possess and to horde, or you keep unto ourselves.
It is given to us to manage. Yes, so that we can certainly live comfortably in our world, but not if that means my brother or my sister has to do without. That's when the Gospel message needs to be reflected upon and heard.
In this age of entitlement, we can all too easily focus and be consumed with those things we think our ours and lose sight of the one gift that God has given us that is truly an exclusively ours, and ours alone. Do you know what that is?
We come into this world with our soul and we leave this world with our soul. And when we die, the only thing that we can claim is ours is that blessed, Holy gift. When we close our eyes in death, all those other things that we said were ours, that defined us, that consumed us, that brought us to anxiety, that brought us to worry, that brought us to despair, we leave it behind.
If it's truly ours, why can't it come with us? We can only take what belongs to us and that's our soul. And so Lent is this incredible opportunity to sift through all of that stuff; all of the confusion that we find ourselves thinking, all of the illusions that we buy into, that everyone says are true, but really are not. All of the injustices that exist in the world that keep people from becoming who they truly are, that prevent them from sharing in the fullness of what God has provide: our obsessions, our compulsions, our myopic thinking that keeps us from seeing the big picture and only the small picture of this “self” of which we have made idols. Because as long as I don't have to feel uncomfortable, as long as I don't have to do without as long as I don't have to feel pain, then it's good. But once I have to be uncomfortable, once I have to change, it's not so good.
The illusions of life: once we begin to peel that away and distance ourselves a bit, and we do that by creating a desert in our lives. Creating a space where we can really look at ourselves for who we are, to be gut honest with the person that's looking back at us in the mirror, and really see all those things that prevent us from being who we really are: a child of God. And it could be fears, it could be apprehensions, it can be a whole bunch of stuff, but in our desert, we can put that aside, call it for what it is, and pursue truth. And there alone with God, who exclusively has claim over my one possession, my soul, no one else can get in there other than God, He alone has that possession of me as his daughter, his son; once we allow God in to that precious gift that he has given to us, then everything begins to change. The world changes. Our sight changes. Our heart changes. And we begin to see this interconnected presence that links it all together. Makes it all work.
So, if we're looking up at the sky on a bright, beautiful night, when all the stars are shining, we can begin to understand not only intellectually, but in our soul, that the star that's at the end of that spectrum, the smallest little star, has a presence and a power to it, a life to it, that is not of its own. And that presence and that power and that life keeps that star in place, in being. And we look within and we realize that this soul that God has given to me is kept in place and has life because of that same presence. As does the bud that is beginning to burst on a tree, and the squirrel that comes across my path and the person that is sitting next to me, whom I don't even know.
And the person on the other side of the world who is hurting in pain. All life bursts forth with this same loving presence of God, without which nothing can be - nothing.
We are so consumed with quantity - the need to have more - that we lose touch with the quality. You know, relationships that are full in life aren't full because of quantity. They're full because of quality; the quality of persons coming together and sharing life; the quality of love; the ability to step aside from one's agendas and one's preoccupations to truly meet another human being.
That's why Saint Oscar Romero said, “Aspire not to have more, but to be more.” To be more.
So how can we, this Lenten season move away from worrying about what we have or what we don't have, and focus more on being - on the quality of my soul, of the essence of who I am, so that the person I bring to life is the person I'm really meant to be.
Father Mark Suslenko is the pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Learn more about our parish community www.isidoreandmaria.org. And follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our music comes free of charge from Blue Dot Sessions in Fall River, Massachusetts. I’m Carol Vassar. Thanks for joining us.