His word is the judgment "sword" that will be the measuring criteria after we die. Did we strive to live up to His Word, His very Self, or did we cling to human precepts and traditions around us? Sometimes His teachings get muddled or confused with very different ones. We in America are morally clear about polygamy even though it was a very widely accepted practice in Jewish Old Testament tradition. We do not espouse to the 600 washing rules to define one's level of purity and holiness. Moreover, we would never stone a woman to death who committed adultery, "as Moses commanded." Why, then, do we cling to many old covenant traditions including the most brutal - that of slaughtering the enemy and entire groups, innocent as well as their brother/father soldiers defending them, even though this is one major thing Christ came to fulfill and teach about on a much higher plane? Going through an entire Gospel at once will light our paths if He is truly to be the Way, the Truth and the Life. This act done with care will send forth His word, His Gospel message, out to all the Earth, and not return to Him void.
In order to do this, to make time to not only know Christ but to "hold these things in [our] heart" as Mary did, pondering over them, we may have some heavy-duty pruning to do in our lives to make the time for more growth in silence, solitude, and listening. There exists all around us, a gluttony with technology so habitual that it is commonplace now - with Smartphone games and networking, Internet games and social networks, T.V., movies, music constantly pumped into the ear through Ipods or Ipads, etc.,... It is not that these are bad in and of themselves, but that their time and use rob us of so much Jesus wants to give us, to show us. It jam packs what little "down" time we could possibly have for inspiration and specific guidance from the Holy Spirit that may occur anywhere - even the grocery store - if we did not have a Blue Tooth, cell phone ear piece, or other gadget distracting us.
I recently read of a new addiction involving visual gluttony, or the over-consumption of most of the above, and how the images stay with you a long time, having overfed our senses. If Jesus is truly to increase and we decrease (as well as our entertainments), modeled so humbly in St. John the Baptist, He must not be crammed out of our lives with technological bombardments. How can He increase if there is no real room for Him to squeeze in? We do not have to live in another century to experience the sacrifice of martyrdom, such as in the lives of St. Paul Miki and his companions in dangerous 16th Century Japan. The technological temptations are so powerful, so overbearing in our lives, that to resist them, to fast from them this Lent and all the time - having as little to do with them as absolutely possible - is a form of dying to self, of sacrificial martyrdom. It can be painful not to have our cell phones next to us at the beck and call or whim of others. These slots of time can be filled with inspirationsl images, scripture, praise, etc, to direct our lives. They can also be emptied out as in the holy, simplistic lives of the desert Fathers and others, to be filled only with Jesus.
We may also look closely at our social lives and how much time is spent on the phone or in person with people who do not necessarily draw us closer to Jesus and the Father. We need to ask for the Holy Spirit's guidance in cultivating silence, openness, and adoration. We also need to ask Jesus to write His words and teachings in our hearts Himself through the space that we create for Him alone. Sometimes when we do steal away for what little time we can give Him, our mind is so flooded with all this stimuli that the time is spent fighting it off or deprogramming. Weaning ourselves from the over-stimulation of technology in our day-to-day lives, and making it a habit to not have our cell phones near us most of the time or run for the computer the minute we have free time, are great places to start.
If Muslims must read the entire Koran during their 30-day Ramadan season, how much more should we Catholics commit to knowing Christ by reading one entire Gospel this Lent and a different one every Lent? One Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) is much, much shorter than the Koran. Especially encouraged are our shepherds - our pastors, priests, bishops, cardinals, and other leaders. All of us need a conversion and rending of heart this lent. We all need to repent and recognize the Kingdom of God among us and live it out among all. It will do Jesus' heart a great deal of good and can only enhance our clarity in understanding His teachings while strengthening our faith in Him. We can also be an inspiration for Christians in other faiths to do the same. All of us can commit to knowing Him and following only His ways more passionately by doing this act of love for Him.
Note* While the 1988 study of the Shroud of Turin claimed that the sample tested was representative of the entire shroud and carbon dating put it in the 13th-14th century (potentially someone else who suffered a crucifixion), according to one of the original 1988 scientists it may not have been representative of the entire Shroud (newer piece?). Also, for the negative made of photographing the Shroud to have such detail of a human face is highly surprising. We are the people who long to see Your face, Jesus. Nomatter what You look like, You are beautiful to we who love You and are after Your own heart.
This Lent be sure to see the movie, End of the Spear, a 2005 docudrama (true story) set in South America - very powerful! Keep watching even after the credits have started for a final interview.