Matthew chapters 1-4. In a nutshell we learn all about the genealogy of Jesus; his birth; the flight of his parents with Jesus into and out of Egypt; his baptism by John; his ministry; and the most important his journey to Judea. Like I said, in a nutshell—Matthew fits all this into four short chapters.
I am in a hurry trying to study—putting off studying of our test today—scrambling to figure out where my inspiration would come from for this reflection in between writing, reading today’s assignment, running my kids to their activities and managing my household…OK, I admit to doing a hefty amount of lollygagging too. My inspiration hits me after reading Matthew 1-4…the Lenten season is upon us and Jesus is preaching to the people to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” in 4:17 and he really wants people to have a conversion of heart.
This is going to be the last prayer I do for this class…EVER. Like Jesus, I’ve been on a journey for the past four years, but I haven’t had to walk, I’ve been driving a jalopy. I’ve been trying to learn more about the bible—and even though this four year bible study is coming to end, my journey is not.
I started out just wanting to read the bible because I tried on so many occasions to do it myself but failed miserably as my eyes crossed, rolled to the back of my head and I fell asleep because it was all too far above my head. I started out wanting some closure and relief from the grieving over the whole experience of the loss of my father—I heard God call me more clearly than ever before to finally dig into his divine word as I watched my dad take his last breath. Finally, I started out wanting to defend my religion, Catholicism, against those who were well versed in the bible but didn’t practice its true intentions.
After four years, where did I end up?
Well, at least Jesus can say he finished his journey and now he’s just waiting! I have such a long, loooong, way to go—but I can say without a doubt that having started out knowing absolutely nothing REAL about the bible, I have learned more about him, his word, his people, and me than I could have ever imagined I would. I’m not the smartest kid in the class; I’m definitely not the best versed; I can’t remember in detail what year a lot of events took place; or people’s names…I am probably the loudest…but what I take away from it all is the core of God’s being—LOVE—that he loves me and you more than anyone else could EVER, or anyone could even imagine. I am not alone and I never will be.
My mind is chaotic at best 23 hours of 24 each day. Even at sleep, I cannot rest. I’m constantly struggling to keep up with the day’s events and probably failing miserably at it because I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished a lot except to get through it in good health, have everyone fed; and have at least some of our chores done until tomorrow. I’m sure like lots of you, I find myself racing to the next task before I’ve finished the one that I’m working on.
Where am I going with all of this? Lent. Lent is coming next week. So my inspiration leads me to thought that I really just need to slow down. I have to find the calm in my life even if it is ten minutes. I need to have a conversion of heart myself. And thanks to this class I think I have…A really profound one. See before I realized what God was really about and read his word, I was just moving along a path…just moving, like an ant performing his daily duties trying to keep up and make it to the next day. But having gone through four years of this bible study, I am more aware of God than I have ever been in my entire life. I see him in my children, in my family, in my friends, in strangers that I meet every day. I am aware of his presence in my life, and in my children’s lives. I am aware that through any struggle I may have no matter how big or small, I am not alone. Knowing this, I was finally able to be at peace with seeing my dad die. I have become at peace with knowing that someday my husband will come to know God like I know him. I am at peace with knowing that I can teach my children that THEY will never be alone. I am no longer afraid. And even though I struggle through the day in chaos, God’s always with me. Even though I feel this daily frenzy, I think about him constantly. He is in the back of mind, in the front of it, on both sides, and under it…he’s everywhere with me. And I truly feel myself trying to make a conscious effort to better myself for having come to know him.
Armored with this newfound deep connection to God that I feel, I WANT to participate more in reflecting about what Lent is all about…”a deepening of our commitment to Christ because we will continue our journey” until we leave this earth and even in afterlife.
From his article on What is Lent? Father Greg Friedman, O.F.M. writes:
Those who are already baptized, are still on a journey. Our faith must be renewed, our baptismal promises affirmed, each time we gather with the Church for the Eucharist, where we hear God’s Word and come to the table to be transformed into the Body of Christ. We bring to that experience our questions, our sinfulness, our hunger and thirst, our need to grow, our longing for God.
In Matthew’s Gospel chapter 3 we read:
John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Mt 3:1-2)
“I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clean his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. (Mt 3:11-12)
Before I started this class four years ago, my heart was driving along in a cheap, ugly, domestic 2-door lemon that got me from point A to point B. Now, my heart cruises along in style in a very rare, very expensive, beautiful fire-red foreign 2-door convertible coupe…with the top down, taking in all the sights around me and stopping more frequently to pick others up.
With thoughts of Lent just around the corner, let’s remember that our repentance during this season shouldn’t be in expressing regret for our sin but to have that conversion of heart and focus on changing the direction of our lives no matter how small that change might be, and let’s pray for each other as we take this journey of faith.