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Sunday Homily: Academy Awards, 'Gravity,' Lent and Rebirth

By       Message Mike Rivage-Seul     Permalink
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There's a similar plot in today's Gospel -- lived out by Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth. Like Dr. Stone in relation to "America," Jesus reflects the experience of his Jewish compatriots. They passed forty years in the desert enduring temptation the whole time. Jesus in Matthew's account passes forty days there. His response to temptation rescues and redeems the collective history of his similarly tempted people more than a thousand years earlier.

Jesus' first temptation is ego-centric -- to feed himself by turning stones into bread. His second temptation is ethnocentric -- connected with the temple and the quasi-magical attributes accorded the structure by his Jewish contemporaries. Jesus' final temptation is world-centric -- to exercise dominion of "all the nations of the world." By rejecting all three, Jesus symbolically achieves cosmic-consciousness. The story ends with his being ministered to by angels.

As in "Gravity," Jesus' vision quest in the desert maps out our Lenten path. It leads from self-centeredness to cosmic consciousness of unity with the One in whom we live and move and have our being. The path cannot be traveled without struggle. Its goal cannot be achieved without breaking free from selfishness, xenophobia, and the arrogance of life in an imperial center whose ways are unsustainable and far removed from its evolutionary roots. That's the point of Lent's prayerfulness, penance, fasting, and abstinence.

Practically speaking returning home during Lent -- realizing our True Self being transformed like Jesus and Dr. Stone -- might mean:

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"  Renewing our prayer life. Even unbelievers can do this. How? I recommend reading Eknath Easwaran's Passage Meditation to find out. Yes, meditate each day during Lent. It will bring you into contact with your True Self. (And, I predict, you won't stop at the end of 40 days -- it's that life-transforming.)
"  Abstaining from fast food and reclaiming the kitchen. Leave behind for forty days the typically chemicalized, fatty, sugar-hyped American diet, and perhaps experiment with vegetarianism. That seems far more beneficial than traditional "fast and abstinence."
"  Shopping locally and refusing to set foot in any of the Big Boxes during Lent's 40 days. Think of it as homage to Jesus' counter-cultural resort to the desert or as Dr. Stone's leaving behind that artificial life in outer space.
"  To escape ethnocentrism and imperial sway, adopting as your news source OpEdNews and/or Al Jazzera rather than the New York Times.
"  Resolving each day to actually respond to one of those many appeals we all receive to make phone calls and write letters to our "representatives" in Congress.
"  In the "Comment" space below, please share other suggestions.

Yes, it's Lent once again. Like Dr. Ryan Stone, we faced up to our origins in dust last Ash Wednesday. A good Lent which leaves behind selfishness, ethnocentrism and allegiance to empire will also allow us to utter her sincere "Thank You" on Easter as we rise from our knees transformed.

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Mike Rivage-Seul is a liberation theologian and former Roman Catholic priest. Recently retired, he taught at Berea College in Kentucky for 36 years where he directed Berea's Peace and Social Justice Studies Program.Mike blogs (more...)
 

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