The First Sunday in Lent – The Homily
Patrick Lencioni is an American author, speaker and management consultant. He is president of The Table Group, a consulting firm specializing in executive team development and organizational health. Pat has worked with senior executives and executive teams in organizations ranging from Fortune 500s to high tech start-ups to universities and non-profits.
- Death by Meetings
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
- The Five Temptations of a CEO
- The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive
- The Three Signs of a Miserable Job
- The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family.
5 years ago was speaking in New York City at an assembly of world leaders – presidents, industry giants, technology gurus, etc… Pat’s speech was so well received that he was voted “best speaker of the conference.” There was a standing ovation and congratulations all around. Yet he left the stage feeling totally empty.
He had it all. In 20 years, over and over again he had said, “God if you only give me this …. I’ll be really happy and never ask you for anything again.” And for 20 years, God granted him his wishes. Good grades, college degree, beautiful girlfriend – later to become his wife, 4 great and healthy sons, great first job, great second job, successful company founder, best selling author and popular speaker.
He tells the story that he left the convention center, walked across the street onto St. Patrick’s Cathedral, got on his knees and said, “God, you have GOT to come down here and save me.”
The “Spirit” drove this great leader into the desert.
Sooner or later, you will be in charge. Sooner or later, you will have to lead something. Everyone is a leader of something. If you are a leader:
- You will be driven into the desert.
- You might be there for awhile
- You will be among the wild beasts (they’re sometimes called teen-agers).
- In such cases, your opinion will not be followed.
- You will be tempted.
It is a lonely, dangerous place. And yet … you will also be ministered to by angels.
So let me offer ONE SUGGESTION and ONE QUESTION :
Recently Christopher Hale wrote an article on Ash Wednesday for Time Magazine. He commented:
Christians around the world mark the beginning of Lent with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. This ancient day and season has a surprising modern appeal. Priests and pastors often tell you that outside of Christmas, more people show up to church on Ash Wednesday than any other day of the year—including Easter. But this mystique isn’t reserved for Christians alone. The customs that surround the season have a quality to them that transcend religion and religious institutions.
That’s a problem. People perceive Christianity as something institutional — rather than as an encounter with Christ. Many Catholics have been catechized without ever truly being evangelized. What do we mean by that? They have been presented with the teachings of the Catholic faith, without ever having been introduced to the person of Christ.
You see, being Catholic is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea.
Being Catholic is the encounter with a person. It’s an event – that occurred at a specific time and place that you can point to and say. “There! Then! That’s when it became different. That’s when my life got a new horizon and a decisive direction.”
This is a mystical encounter. It feels different. It feels a bit strange. But you will also feel that the trials and tribulations in life are no longer meaningless and worthless. You sense that the challenges and difficulties are taken and used and redeemed by God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And that this is done for the benefit of others where, like St. Paul says in Colossians:
“I rejoice in what I am suffering for others, for when I suffer in my body, I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for the sake of his body, the church. (Colossians 1:24)
Mathew Kelly from Dynamic Catholic said don’t give up chocolate this Lent. Pope Francis has echoed the same idea that said that there is no need to throw out the candy and cognac and carbohydrates. The Holy Father has a different idea for fasting this year. He has challenged us to fast from our pastoral indifference and our spiritual superficiality.
That’s not easy – that’s HARD!
What Christopher Hale from Time Magazine is saying that such an encounter is not only hard, but that people are beginning to find that actually attractive, AND – They’re looking for people who, in an unapologetic way, do the “hard stuff.” People in the midst of the hard stuff want to meet and talk to people who do the “hard stuff.” They want to learn how to live with and deal with the hard stuff.
So, here’s my suggestion:
You don’t need to present Lent and the hard stuff as easy. Just because you admit that you’re struggling doesn’t’ mean you’re a wimp nor that you’re complaining or that your being Pharisaical. This stuff isn’t easy, but, as Christians/Catholics we do “hard stuff” especially for Lent. We deal with hard stuff all of the time. So talk about it. There are people out there who want to talk to you about it.
Now, here’s my question – What do you do when you’re in the midst of the “hard stuff?
The formula is a Lenten one and it has three parts:
- Repentance of sin.
- Conversion of heart.
- Decision of faith.
It isn’t sexy but the formula has always remained the same. In other words:
- Get to Confession.
- Ask for help .
- Talk to people who love you for THEIR opinion.
- Allow the Holy Spirit to change your mind or your perspective.
And stand on the promise of Christ:
- He was killed but popped out of His grave.
- He’s still alive and still around.
- He knows what He is about. He knows what you are about.
- Take him at his word, and look for the angels to show up in your life this week. (And don’t be surprised if they’re teenagers).
Audio version of the homily is here: