12th March – 2nd Sunday of Lent (A)

I mentioned recently that this March 4th was the fourth anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. That same day I became a quadriplegic as the C5 vertebrae in my upper spine disintegrated and I developed a spinal cord compression. After a week of having traction applied to my neck, the spinal cord began to recover and I was ready for an operation to rebuild my upper spine. The below X-ray shows the metal plate that bridges the C5 position and the 8 self-tapping screws that attach it to the 2 vertebrae above and below the C5. One has to marvel at the surgical skill involved in putting this in place!

upper spine

Afterwards I began the physiotherapy that allowed me to walk again and use the left arm that was particularly affected. Furthermore when I was diagnosed, 60% of my bone marrow was cancerous. Half ways through my initial 4 month course of chemotherapy, the cancer level fell from 60% down to almost zero. Thank God for that too!

lent 40 days clipartThis weekend I was invited to a nearby parish to talk about the basics of Lent. I focused on the Ash Wednesday gospel which stressed PRAYER, FASTING & ALMSGIVING. You’ve heard most of what I had to say, except perhaps for the following points:

We should be able to find 20 minutes a day for prayer given that our expectation is to spend eternity with God after this life. I invited people to see me after Mass. A special prize was waiting for anybody who could convince me that they could not afford this 20 minutes daily!

One way to use this 20 minutes daily is to bring home the Sunday leaflet and spend time reflecting on the Sunday readings. This is an ideal way to listen to the voice of Jesus as we were told in today’s gospel: “This is my Son, the beloved, on whom my favour rests. Listen to him.”

Fasting/penance is important training is self-discipline so that we can always say YES to God’s Will and when necessary NO to our base instincts and appetites.

With regard to the world-wide poor who are deserving of our almsgiving, 21,000 die every day from hunger. Some 140,000 unwanted babies are killed daily by abortion. Putting spare change into a Lenten box is a token initiative. We should be setting up standing orders with our bank to give a significant monthly sum to our favourite third world or pro-life charities.

At the end of our lives, what will our real treasure in heaven be? It will be the time spend in prayer and the friendship we have developed with God; it wont be the time spent watching TV, magazines or on the computer. It will be the efforts made to always do God’s will by disciplining our will through fasting and penance; our treasure wont be time spend in self-indulgence. Our treasure in heaven will be alms given to the poor, not what we have left in our bank account.