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03/01/2020 First Sunday in Lent - Fr. Reggie

St Paul's Letter to the Romans is unique.

His other Letters were written in response to specific struggles being faced by local Christian communities.

But he had a different goal with his Letter to the Romans. He was hoping to begin soon a new series of missionary journeys that would bring him west - all the way to Spain in fact. For those journeys, he would need a base of operations, and Rome was the perfect choice. It was the capital of a vast empire. To conquer that world for Christ, there was no better headquarters. The Christians in Rome had heard of Paul but had never met him. So, he sent this Letter to prepare the ground for his upcoming visit. He wanted the Romans to know his views firsthand, not through indirect sources.

In the section we just heard, Paul elucidates the very core of the whole Gospel, summing up all human history in a few sentences. God created the human family in perfect harmony, peace and prosperity. But Adam, the leader of that family, sinned. This original sin ruptured that harmony and created a world infected by sin and fraught with conflict, evil, and suffering. Jesus Christ was God's response. Helpless to help ourselves, we needed a savior, someone to reverse Adam's rebellion and reestablish a right relationship between God and man.

Jesus Christ was and is that Savior. Adam disobeyed God when he ran into the devil in the Garden of Eden, and all of Adam's descendants suffered the painful consequences. Jesus obeyed God the Father when he ran into the devil in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross at Calvary, and his spiritual descendants receive from him the restoration of righteousness - a right relationship with God.

During the Civil War, it was permitted for one man to take the place of another in the army.  It so happened that a farmer by the name of Blake was drafted. He was grief-stricken, not because he was a coward, but because he had a wife and children to take care of. The day before he was to report at camp, a young neighbor by the name of Charles Durham came to Blake's farm. "Farmer Blake," he said, "I will go instead of you." The offer was accepted. The entire village turned out to bid farewell to the generous young man. In the very first battle in which he engaged, young Durham was shot and killed.

When Blake read the name of his young friend in the list of the dead, he saddled his horse, rushed to the battlefield, found the body, and brought it back to the little churchyard of the village.  He found a large stone up on a hill and on it he carved an inscription. It wasn't beautiful, but it was sincere. Blake placed it above the fresh, sod-covered mound in the churchyard. It was not an elaborate inscription, but it said much. It simply read: "C.D. He died for me."

Above the cross of Christ and over his grave, each one of us must carve the words: He died for me. He took upon himself the suffering and evil unleashed by Adam's sin and perpetuated by our sins. His perfect, loving obedience up to death on the cross reversed Adam's rebellion, and freed us from the power of the devil. He has lit in our hearts the flame of certain hope that will lead us to eternal life.

Lent is a time when God wants us to think deeply about these important truths. He wants us to remember what life is really all about. He wants to remind us of our origin and our goal. And he wants us to renew our commitment to live in accordance with that origin and goal.

We all know how hard it can be to keep the more important things in mind.

We are surrounded by so much noise. So many other messages are grasping for our attention every waking moment.

And yet, at the same time, in our day and age, it is easier than ever to make time for the truly important things. It is easier than ever to turn off the noise. With TiVo we don't have to miss the news, the game, or any worthy television shows - we can record them and watch it at our convenience. With Internet podcasting, important radio broadcasts can be downloaded and listened to whenever it fits best into our schedule. With email, cell phones, portable computers, and PDAs, we aren't chained to the office - we can get our important work done whenever and wherever we choose.

In other words, now more than ever we have the capacity to organize our own time in perfect harmony with our true priorities - if we really want to.

This Lent let's make sure that our main priority is to spend time with our Savior

To read about him, visit him in the Eucharist, pour our hearts out to him in prayer, and reflect on his Word in the Scriptures.

Nothing will please Christ more than our spending time with him, and nothing will do more for the health of our souls, and for the happiness of those around us.


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