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The Attitude of Lent: Examine Your Heart

Every year, as I make my appointment for my annual physical I become more conscious and aware about the state of my health. Am I eating right? Are my cholesterol levels elevated? Am I in a regular exercise routine? How is my heart and blood pressure?

Side by side, my doctor asks questions and helps to determine the state of my physical health and often suggests certain supplements and life style changes that will impact my overall well-being.

Following my check-up I commit to better health through more exer¬cise, taking my vitamins and eating right. It’s all about my attitude and how I respond to taking care of my body, mind and soul.

Joyously, every spring, our Holy Orthodox faith offers us the trans¬forming experience of Great Lent to seriously battle against the evil forces in our life that keeps us from God. We are invited to pray with a repentant and eager spirit, fast more seriously, and examine the at¬titude of our heart and spiritual life.

We are given this time to pause and focus on the inner life – to let go of the vices and addictions that keep us from loving God and loving one another. Indeed, the spiritual struggle can be difficult. It re¬quires self-disciple, attitude and humility. Listen to St. John Chryso¬stom urging on the faithful to begin the fast with an attitude of deter¬mination and strength.

As the fast begins, “Let us get ready and polish our spiritual weapons; as cultivators, let us sharpen our sickles; as sailors, let us order our thoughts against the waves of extravagant desires; as travelers, let us set out on the journey towards heaven; and as wrestlers let us strip for the contest. For the Christian is at the same time a soldier, a sailor, a plower and a wrestler. St. Paul states, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of evil. Put therefore the whole ar¬mor of God” St. John Chrysostom

As we put on the armor of Jesus, the church offers us this time so we can get back on course towards God’s kingdom. Just like we take our car for oil change and check up… just like have our teeth x-rayed and cleaned… Just like we visit the doctor for a yearly physical… it is time to examine our priorities on our spiritual health.

St John of Kronstadt says: “Watch your heart throughout your life; examine it, listen to it, and see what prevents it from uniting itself with the Lord. Let this be your supreme and constant study, and with God’s help you will easily observe what estranges you to Him, and what draws you to Him and unites you to Him. It is the evil spirit more than anything else that stands between our hearts and God; He estranges us from God by the several vices, or by the desires of the flesh, and by worldly pride. So examine yourself more often. See where the eyes of your heart are looking....

St. John encourages us to embrace this attitude of confession to be united with Christ! In the book “Soul Mending” Dn. John Chrys¬savgis writes, “confession can be looked at as a forward movement ‘into’ life. It is not an invitation to hopeless guilt but to freedom and responsibility. The purpose is not that we be ashamed or demoral¬ized but it is rather to point us towards life; a life characterized by honesty, integrity and personal accountability to God, to all others, and to oneself.”

“To repent is to awaken from the sleep of ignorance, to rediscover our soul, to gain the meaning and purpose of our lives by respond¬ing to the incomparable love of the One who is ‘not’ of this world, the One who ‘demonstrates’ His own love toward us. The focal point should not be our imperfection but the perfect love of Jesus, who is good and loves humankind”.

Let us begin Great Lent with an eager attitude and integrity! Chuck Swindoll wrote: “Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than cir¬cumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the at¬titude we will embrace for that day.”

“We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that peo¬ple will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our attitudes.“

May we develop the joyous attitude that we ‘get’ to walk with Christ as he points us to His incomparable life, Kingdom and purpose! I am looking forward to sharing this journey with you.

Have a blessed Lent!

+fr. Tom

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