Homily for the 1st Sunday of Lent 2023
The man who sat beside me that day asked, “Did you hear that? Did you hear what she said?” This happened many years ago when I attended a retreat. The presenter, a lay woman said to the group these words: “The only perfect thing about me is my imperfection.” “Yes! I heard it! I really heard it!”
“The only perfect thing about me is my imperfection.” And yet last Sunday those final words of Jesus that closed the sermon on the mount were, “Be perfect therefore as your God is perfect…” brought me back to that director’s message that opened my ears so many years ago. A reminder that I am imperfect that I need God… God was gently whispering, ‘I don’t expect perfection from you David… only a relationship with me and my relationship with you will shape your life with all its beauty, love and yes…all of its imperfections. That’s how I created you.
Today is the first Sunday of Lent. The first part of our camping trip together. “Enlarge the space of your tent,” is our theme for this Lent. Today we are called to focus on LISTENING. As we begin to expand or open our tents, our hearts, we need to ask ourselves, “Are we listening to God?” Or what is our attitude toward God? Do we beleive that God is listening to us, just as Jesus listened to the people in the Gospels… the same people who he healed, welcomed and loved? If not, are we lost in something that pulls us away from God? Can we hear God in the noise pollution that surrounds us?
Since the beginning of Ordinary Time, God has been preparing us for Lent. The readings from Genesis describing our creation and gospel passages from the sermon on the mount which encourage us to be “salt and light for the world, turn the other cheek… we are blessed when we mourn.” God’s great love has created us, and God has expectations about how to live life well. But it will not be perfect.
Just as Jesus was tempted in today’s gospel but chose to turn away from the darkness, we too are influenced by the darkness of our weaknesses, our temptations which may lead us away from God. Many years ago, my temptation had been perfectionism… which created great anxiety for me (and others) and influenced me at times to hold back from being “salt and light.” for others… or “to turn the other cheek.”
My dear friends, I still come face to face with my imperfection many times. But I have grown in my relationship with Jesus. I’m not the same person that I was when I listened… really listened to those words, “the only thing perfect about me is my imperfections.” That day at the retreat, I knew that God was reaching out to me. I chose to listen to God and I changed course. It was an “a-ha!” moment for me.
At the beginning of our Lent, perhaps we could ask ourselves, What is it that we need to listen for… what is God calling us to this Lent that will lead us to a deeper relationship with God and others? And are we ready to listen? As our theme tells us, “Enlarge the space of your tent,”… that is our heart with the help of prayer, fasting, being salt and light for others and taking time to listen to what God is saying to us.
It’s an opportunity for new life and in the words of today’s psalm, “A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.” In other words, help us to begin to “enlarge the space of our tents!” Hopefully we all heard that…hopefully we were listening! Amen.