Dogs learn good habits like to heel when walking on the leash.
Puppies have to learn to go to the bathroom outside and not inside the house.
ROUND OF APPLAUSE
In today's first reading from the prophet, Ezekiel, stresses the importance of developing virtue, which is another way of saying, developing good habits.
Ezekiel was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah. He was exiled in 597 B.C., 11 years prior to the fall of Jerusalem.
He was of the priestly line, and longed to serve at the Jewish teimple. And felt great sadness being exiled from his homeland. But Ezekiel takes upon a role as prophet, encouraging his people to stay close to God by obedience, despite the fact that they were in exile.
His central message in today's first reading is to maintain those good prayer and worshiping habits that the Jewish people were brought up with. Even though the Jewish people are in exile, they can still grow closer to God.
He says, "Those who keep God's statutes shall live because of the virtue they have practiced."
So children, very early on, we learn the Ten Commandments. When we learn the Ten Commandments, we notice that the first three are the most important, because they deal with God alone. The last six deal with our relationships with our neighbor. The fourth commandment is an important bridge between first three, and the last six.
Our parents represent a human version of God's presence and authority with us on earth. – They are protectors, nurturers, educators, advisors for us.
And so we must obey our parents and learn good habits from them. For they have been given authority over us from God. We've learned to brush our teeth in the morning, to eat a healthy breakfast, make our beds. We've learned to do our homework when we get home from school. To study hard for our tests. All of these habits, help to form us to reach our potential.
Part of our education involves obedience to our parents, and obedience to our teachers. We trust that our parents and teachers will help form us correctly, to succeed in our society.
But it takes a lot of discipline to become virtuous, doesn't it. So our parents discipline us, our teachers discipline us, and then eventually, we learn to discipline ourselves. We are worth it. Because we are made so intimately in the image and likeness of God.
This purple season of Lent is a time of discipline. We are learning to orient our appetites to God. So virtue can lead us to success in our world, but if it doesn't lead us closer to God, it is useless.
All the gifts and abilities we attain through an education, are of no benefit, if they do not truly serve God and our community.
If we recall the temptation narrative from the Gospel last week, we are reminded of how we are tempted with the desire for power that comes from our fallen nature as a result of original sin.
Jesus, is able to overcome these temptations to power. Recall Mt 27:40 - "If you are the son of God, come down from that cross!"
We are not always so successful
If we were to ask these children who their favorite animated characters would be, most certainly we would hear about Jedi's with amazing agility, and an ability to wield skillfully, the light saber. Or we might here about costumed heroes with the ability to walk on walls, to fly, and superhuman strength. we might here about royal princesses, or animals with magical powers.
It’s so important to introduce children to the real heroes. The saints! Yesterday, March 9, is the day that St. Dominic Savio passed on to eternal life. He had an appetite solely for God. And he used his education and the virtue he developed to follow God alone. He used to say that he’d rather die, than commit a sin. How beautiful such devotion he had.
Today we would look at such devotion as being extreme, possibly even a psychological disorder. (fear of thinking evil or sinful thoughts - possible criteria on webmd.com website - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
But what we have here is perfect charity.
We look to the cross and we see one who would rather die than commit a sin.
For the world preaches the love of power. However, Christ teaches us the power of Love.
So let's choose this Lent as an opportunity to grow in love of Christ, like the saints we aspire to be.
instruct our minds by your heavenly teaching,
O Lord.may we may benefit from the works of Lent. Amen.
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