The story is told of a young priest who wanted to become a be an excellent preacher. So he asked one of his parishioners who was a gifted television personality to especially listen to his homily every Sunday and give him feedback. After the first time she agreed to do this, she offered her judgment: “Warm.” With enthusiasm, the young priest replied, “WARM!” The next weekend, her review and his response were exactly the same: “Warm!” Once again the priest was thrilled. The woman gave the same evaluation every Sunday, week after week. After a while, the priest became suspicious and looked up the meaning of the word “warm” in the dictionary – “not too hot.”
That priest heard all those Sundays what he wanted to hear but did not realize the true message. That is why this Sunday’s gospel is so important for us. Jesus is asking us, “Do you know who you are on the inside?” He points out that all too often — in fact, most of the time — people who judge others critically are guilty of the very same behavior they bad mouth. Not only that, but our words and actions reveal to the world who and what kind of people we are on the inside.
The season of Lent begins this week with Ash Wednesday, It is the tine of year when we are invited — actually challenged — to know who we are on the inside. And to do that well, we need to do the following:
- reflect on our words and actions;
- fast, abstain, and pray more;
- admit the fact that we are sinners;
- undertake spiritual reading: Bible, Library, Book Study
- be reconciled through the sacrament of Penance;
- come to communion more often;
- and renew our baptismal promises at the Easter Vigil or Sunday.
I would like to leave us with the thoughts of 14th Century German Mystic Meister Eckhart:
“Be prepared at all times for the gifts of God, and be always ready for new ones. For God is a thousand times more ready to give than we are to receive.”