When we change our viewpoint … we discover a new (happier) way of living
Perhaps you have heard that the call to repent during Lent is often misinterpreted. Most of my life it meant: stop being naughty and do more good things.
The Greek word, REPENT, actually means: “face another way” or “turn around” or more literally, have a “change of mind” or a “change in heart.”
In our Christian context, it’s more important to focus on “seeing in a new way” rather than fighting bad habits/ actions head-on, directly. Otherwise, after Lent we just act like before.
When we go deeper into our mind and heart, to discover why I’m doing or acting in certain ways – the way I lead my life – we might mind find some corrections to our “thinking”, that will enhance our lives, and make it much easier to reduce our bad habits/actions.
So, first of all, we should see Lent as a privileged time to stop and think: even don’t force yourself to give up XYZ, but give up some time to reflect: it’s more precious to God, and you, because that will be a time to also listen to our loving God in your life.
Last week we reflected on the Transfiguration. Too often we think it’s just emphasising Jesus’ encounter with God the Father. When, in fact, it’s meant to remind us, and help us, remember the times we have also encountered God.
Are you surprised? You can’t remember encountering God? One key example for most people – sadly not for all – is when the family come together for a lovely meal at Christmas or you come home to mum and dad for a break and enjoy being spoilt!
I recall coming home from boarding school for a mid-year break and when it was time to wash the dishes, my mother said: let Gerard rest, he’s just come home. My sisters were not impressed. But, me, I was very happy! Maybe not the perfect example, but I felt loved and, like Peter James and John, why would I want to leave?
Coming down from the mountain is necessary, so we don’t destroy Heaven: but we carry a little bit with us. And, now that we are “down”, what are we going to do? How will we live?
The 1st Reading today presents the 10 Commandments. For many people they can be a burden. However, this Lent, could we “repent” and see the Commandments in a new way? Could these laws be a life-giving escape from chaos and uncertainty (from fear/ unhappiness)?
We find meaning and happiness through community life. But that only works if we all behave according the same code of practice.
I remember a lady calling her elderly husband to warn him that there was a crazy driver on his road home who was driving in the wrong direction. The man answered the call and promptly told his wife: “one? There’s hundreds of cars coming in the wrong direction!”
Obviously the man had turned into the wrong side of the road. Likewise, fear and unhappiness in our lives usually comes from people – including (especially?) ourselves – who are not living according to the norms of the wider society.
When we feel angry with others, it’s good to check if “I” am the problem?
Perhaps we can see the 10 Commandments this way:
- God: I am always there to help you:
don’t look elsewhere, I created you in love and I know what makes you tick!
- God: if we go together, we’ll go far, if you trust in material things they will fail you.
- God: if you respect me, you will trust me – otherwise you will live in fear every day.
- God: if you take a rest every week, you will achieve more the following week.
- God: appreciate your parents, so you will remain humble and not make enemies.
- God: forgive your neighbour for mistakes – then they’ll be able to help you tomorrow.
- God: don’t eat outside your family –you will come home to an empty home.
- God: don’t take other’s property – you’ll live in fear of losing what is yours.
- God: be honest with your neighbours – so you can always sleep in peace.
- God: celebrate your neighbour’s success – you will make many friends who can help.
The new way of seeing above might help us recognise that our bad habits and “selfish” actions are also hurting us and making our tomorrow more difficult.
God wants us to be happy: the 10 Commandments are given in love, not anger. We encounter God’s love & joy through our Community pulling together in the same direction: to Heaven.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI