THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT –Year C

Sunday, 14th February, 2016

St. Peter Claver Church, Dulwich

 

Theme: “Scripture says: You must do homage to the Lord your God, him alone you must serve.”

The well-known poet, Kahlil Gibran, once said, “Spiritual awakening is the most important thing in life; it is the sole purpose of our being.” This precisely is what Jesus intended by prescribing the Beatitudes. He wanted us to know that, as free persons, we can choose between the values of the world or the values of the Kingdom of God. The values of the world are the pursuit of money, pleasure, popularity, power and prestige. And the values of the Kingdom of God are poverty of spirit, cleanness of heart, compassion for the less favoured and the oppressed and a firm commitment to truth and justice. The values of the world bring satisfaction in this world; the values of the Kingdom of God guarantee eternal life and everlasting happiness. This, in a nutshell, is the principal purpose of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, in launching a Jubilee Year of Mercy. Our compassionate outreach to others, especially the less favoured, is a human and visible reflection of the compassion of our all-merciful and benevolent God. To God and God alone must we devotedly do homage; him and him alone must we ceaselessly serve..

 

The famous Russian writer, Alexander Solzhenitsyn has written a novel entitled The First Circle. In it he tells the story of a Russian diplomat named Innokenty. It was during the regime of Staling that both Innokenty and his wife, Dottie, lived a very extravagant life, literally wallowing in the lap of wealth and luxury. And they avidly lapped it up, making the most while the sun shone. This was when the entire world was literally being torn apart by World War II, and people were struggling to earn their daily bread. But to all of that both Innokenty and Dottie were totally oblivious – their bread was truly buttered on both sides!

 

In the sixth year of their marriage, however, things began to take change and rather radically. Innokenty became very disillusioned with his life of extravagance and even began to develop a revulsion for all worldly things and material pleasures. Even more, he began to be haunted by an inner restlessness that truly alarmed him. At formal dinners he began to resent the hypocrisy as all the guests would spring to their feet to drink a toast to Comrade Stalin, whom they secretly feared and even despised. Even his lovely wife, Dottie, was gradually becoming a stranger to him. In a word, Innokenty was desperately unhappy and very confused.

 

One day he was rambling through the books of his mother’s library and sorting out some of her letters, when he chanced upon one in which she clearly outlined the values by which he should always live. And, even as he read it, he began to feel a sense of guilt and shame that he had failed to heed her wise advice. In one particular letter, this is what his mother had written: “The most precious thing in the whole world is the consciousness of not participating in injustice.” That hit him like a bolt of lightning. For the first time he realized that he wasn’t at peace mainly because he had disregarded the sound values that his good mother had imparted, and had foolishly exchanged them for what was as fleeting as smoke. And then, thanks to his mother, he made this very startling but important discovery: we have only one conscience, and that a crippled conscience is as irretrievable as a lost life. Like St. Paul and St. Augustine, Innokenty experienced a spiritual awakening and realized for himself what Kahlil Gibran did rightly say: “Spiritual awakening is the most important thing in life; it is the sole purpose of our being.”

 

Steve Jobs is a world-famous American, an outstanding entrepreneur, an enterprising marketer and inventor, the co-founder, Chairman & CEO of APPLE Inc, and a pioneer in a series of revolutionary technologies, Sadly he passed away recently as a consequence of pancreatic cancer. A little before he died, he candidly and humbly issued what is now known as The Last Words of Steve Jobs. Here are two extracts:

  1. I have come to the pinnacle of success in business. In the eyes of others, my life has been the symbol of success. However, apart from work, I have little joy. In the last analysis, my wealth is simply a fact to which I am accustomed. At this time, lying on the hospital bed and recalling the past, I realize that all the accolades and riches, of which I was once so proud, have become insignificant with my imminent death.
  2. Material things lost can be easily found. But one thing you can never find when you lose it and that is life. Whatever stage of life at which you now are, at the end you will have to face the day when the curtain falls. So please treasure your family – love your spouse and children and friends. Treat everyone well and stay friendly with your neighbours.