Lent calls for a change of heart

March 2020 · Ministry News

“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.”                     Matthew 5:21-22

This is not one of Jesus’ easier sayings.  It’s not because it is saying anything particularly disagreeable, but rather because it just hits a little too close to home for me.  I’ve done pretty well following the commandment not to kill.  That seems to be the easy part.  But how many days am I able to go without getting angry with someone?  Sadly, the answer for me at least, is not many.  And all too often its over nothing.  Maybe they did something stupid in traffic.  Perhaps they inconvenienced me in some way.  Maybe I just disagree with them. Chances are they never even knew it.  But I had anger in my heart toward them.  And Jesus is telling us that this is very much related to that commandment against killing.

Once again, we are hearing the message that outward appearances and even actions are one thing, but that what really matters is what is going on in our heart.  This is a reminder that we’ll hear over and over again in the season of Lent.  During this holy season, God is calling us to really take a good look at ourselves – not the self that we display for everyone else – but our true inner self.  If we’re all being honest, we’ll find we have some work to do.  We are graced with the season of Lent as a time for us do that self-examination and then work more toward being that person that God has created us to be.

We can go through the motions.  We can really look like we have it all together and are doing our best. What is important, however, is not how we look or how others perceive us.  It is instead what is going on inside us, in our heart.  This Lent we are called to change our hearts – to give up those habits, like anger over little things, which lead us away from God and our neighbor and instead pick up our cross and follow in the way that Jesus has put before us.

Fr. Chas Marks is a Senior Advisor for Community & Church Relations with The Saint Francis Foundation.  He is also the Rector (Pastor) of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City, Missouri.