Change for the better


mission of nombre de dios / st. augustine, florida / (c) 2006 bob traupman.  all rights reserved.

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

It’s 6 AM here in Fort Lauderdale on this Ash Wednesday morning.  It’s still dark. Shivvy, my 11 year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever devoted companion is still asleep.  This is the time of day I love the most. Reflecting.  Praying. Studying.  Allowing my soul to float out and embrace those I am thinking about and praying for this morning.  The only sound is the white noise of Shivvy’s fan. I hate white noise.  The silence “sends me” as we used to say in the 70’s.  Silence is the language God speaks.

And I’m thinking of you, my readers, and what I want to say about Lent.  This is an important time for us Catholics because it’s a time of grace, an opportunity for us to CHANGE what’s necessary in ourselves to live a better life.

Learning how to reflect. For me, reflection is being aware, being conscious of what is happening inside of me and around me is the key to life.  The other day I said I think many of us let life happen without directing it, without asking the question WHAT DOES MY LIFE MEAN? What is its purpose?  Is it just a series of unrelated happenings?

Eckart Tolle in his best seller The New Earth last spring observes that being conscious is the most important dimension of life.  Not what we do or what we achieve.

Lent is a time to reflect on the meaning of our life.  To realize that we have an opportunity to make our own meaning.

The key to that is reflection. Look at yourself, look at your day to day life in a mirror.  What do you see?  What do  you like? What needs changing?

Lent is a time to do a little soul improvement. I get irritated with Catholics who think that Lent is about giving up candy.  Yeah, self-discipline is important.  We’ll get to that when we go visit Jesus in his wilderness-experience.

We’ve got to go deeper.

Last night President Obama called us to that.  He has called us to CHANGE.  That’s always what life is about.  You rock buffs correct me but I think it was Arlo Guthrie who said, “He who isn’t busy being born is busy dying.”

The President called us to rebirth America.   And we have to rebirth our Church too.  We are very stuck in the church as well. Another word for change is conversion. Conversion is a process by which we root out of ourselves old behavior patterns that don’t work anymore.

That requires self-discipline, which is traditionally a part of the Lenten process.  More tomorrow on the need for self-discipline.

The greatest sin of Americans is complacency. On the list of the seven deadly sins, it’s sloth; i.e., laziness, spiritual laziness.  And the culprit is our pursuit of the good life.  Having the latest tech stuff to make life more entertaining or pleasurable.  We go shopping when we feel blue.  All the ads are saying, “You deserve this latest gidget;  you’ve got to have it.

But we pay a price for our consumer mentality. Consumerism — cajoling, prompting, deceiving people to buy stuff they don’t need is just plain wrong.  It is sinful.  It has nearly destroyed us as a nation.  We’ve got to root it out of our lives — individually and as a nation.  I suggest we look at this very carefully this Lent. And it’s sinful for us to buy into that.

We’ve bought a big lie here in America:  Material things will make you happy.  You’ve got to have Calvin Klein underwear and Polo shirts and a bigger pool  than our neighbor’s.

The mega malls are temples to materialism.  But we don’t see this because we’re unaware.   Capitalism has become as atheistic as Communism.  And now we’re paying the price for our wanting more and more (read: GREED) and being satisfied with less and less.

It makes us stuck in a pile of debris of our own making behind a log jam in the river of our life.  So stuckness is the sin we need to look at in these times here in America.

Our life is supposed to keep flowing because consciousness keeps flowing.  Each moment should be new.  Each bend of the river should find us in a quiet wood or hurtling toward some rapids.  Yes, sin is being stuck and not even realizing we’re stuck.  That’s what addiction is: Being stuck in destructive behaviors.  So ask yourself this Ash Wednesday:  In what areas of my life am I not growing?  Where am I stuck?

The President audaciously called us to hope last night.  I was amazed at his ability to inspire and to call us to be our best selves.

But we have to be willing to enter a process of transformation — each of us — for our country to be transformed.

We have to be willing to face up to what’s wrong with us first.  What’s wrong with us is our focus on things. We have to change our ways and our economy so that we’re not consuming more and more stuff but instead serving more and more people.

So, let me make a suggestion for our Lenten reflection each evening.  Today was I more focused on people and how I can hel them be better persons or power or possessions and how to can manipulate and control people.

Mr. Obama called us to that.  He is re-directing our economy toward renewable energy, health care and education.

He is calling us to rebirth America.

This Lent, let us be willing to reflect on our lives so that we can change what is necessary that we get flowing again.

God of our understanding,

we come to you acknowledging that we stray from our true path,

we use people for our own purposes rather than encourage them,

we are rushing around so madly that we don’t stop and think: What’s it all about?

Grant us the grace to walk this Lenten journey of reflection and renewal

so that we are open to the grace you will give us to get unstuck

and enjoy the green pastures and refreshing waters along our life’s journey s you provide them.

Bob Traupman

priest / writer

Tomorrow:  The Jesus I know and love.

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