The one who keeps the law makes many offerings;
one who heeds the commandments makes an offering of well-being.
The one who returns a kindness offers choice flour,
and one who gives alms sacrifices a thank offering.
To keep from wickedness is pleasing to the Lord,
and to forsake unrighteousness is an atonement.
Do not appear before the Lord empty-handed,
for all that you offer is in fulfillment of the commandment.
The offering of the righteous enriches the altar,
and its pleasing odor rises before the Most High.
The sacrifice of the righteous is acceptable,
and it will never be forgotten.
Be generous when you worship the Lord,
and do not stint the first fruits of your hands.
With every gift show a cheerful face,
and dedicate your tithe with gladness.
Give to the Most High as he has given to you,
and as generously as you can afford.
Psalm 50: 5-8, 14, 23
“Gather to me my faithful ones,
who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”
The heavens declare his righteousness,
for God himself is judge.
“Hear, O my people, and I will speak,
O Israel, I will testify against you.
I am God, your God.
Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
your burnt offerings are continually before me.
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and pay your vows to the Most High.
Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me;
to those who go the right way
I will show the salvation of God.”
Mark 10: 28-31
Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
With Lent beginning tomorrow, it is time to decide on our commitments for this penitential season. “What are you giving up for Lent?” is a popular conversation starter these days, and social media offers plenty of articles with suggestions on this topic. Catholics will debate the best Lenten resolutions, as some focus on making sacrifices, while others insist that “doing something positive” is the way to go, viewing Lent almost as a “self-improvement” season.
Regardless of what one decides to do for Lent, the Scriptures today focus on the spirit with which one approaches this season, and how one approaches the Lord in general. Many Catholics see the Lenten season as a period filled with duties: duties to go to Mass, receive ashes, give something up or make a resolution, abstain from meat on Fridays etc. While the Church’s traditions are in place to help us draw closer to the Lord in this season, it is important to keep in mind what the Lord’s desire is, which He expresses in the readings today. The reading from Sirach tells us that the Lord wants us to be cheerful and generous when making offerings to Him. It says, “give as He has given you.” In other words, He does not want us to view our sacrifices or resolutions as merely a box to check as part of being Catholic, or for the focus to necessarily be on ourselves becoming better people. The Lord loves us so intensely and gives of Himself fully to us. He wants our hearts, and our Lenten resolutions should be a response to His love and generosity manifested in our relationship with Him. They should reflect a deep pull in our spirits toward Him, a pull that does not count the cost, but wants to overwhelm the Beloved with affection as we pour ourselves out to Him, remembering how He poured Himself out for us.
Thus the Psalmist says, “Offer to God praise as your sacrifice” and in the Gospel, Jesus promises eternal rewards to those who place Him even above their own families, hopes, and dreams. He was not putting an impossible standard in front of His followers, nor calling us to abandon our duties to those who depend on us. Rather, He was letting us know that He wants us to love Him the way He loves us, completely and without reserve. If He matters more to us than even our closest family members, our identity, and sense of stability in this life, we will experience a small taste of the love He has for us. This was the love that led Him to the Cross, where He also calls us to follow Him this season. And He promises unimaginable rewards to those who respond to this call.
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for this beautiful season of Lent. As I reflect on your Passion and Death over the next few weeks, may I receive more fully the deep love you have for me, and respond with a generous heart. Because I love you, Lord, I want to put to death those sins that have been keeping me at a slight distance from you, I want to spend more time in prayer and praise, and I want to build your Kingdom on earth as I share your love with those around me, especially those who need it the most. May I draw closer to you this Lent, and be open to all the graces you have in store for me. Amen.