Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Lent is a time to look at our excesses of Life

Father John J. Lombardi

 Like a few billion other people this year my family and I tuned in a couple weeks ago for "the Game"-the Super Bowl (I slightly feel like I'm making a confession). I planned my arrival for "the Game" when I thought I would meet the least resistance to the usual pre-game hype and hoopla, but, when I arrived at my folks it still was lingering-the drama (trauma for many, esp. my Mom!), and announcements, music, lights, cheering, excessive liquor commercials and sensual sensations, and general bloatedness of decorum. My brother said, at the height of splashing cheers, lights, noise and bombast-- "indulgent excess." "Exactly," I thought.

I read an article recently-regarding Christmas-and the thesis seemed bristly true from a secular point of view: Christmas, really, is about excess-- money, gifts, parties, capitalism, commercials, food and festivals-all adding up to indulgence.

Back to football, (for a moment). I went for the second half to a family's house and was surprised to find all eight of them in Mom and Dad's room watching the game (Mom was sick, in bed). It was, actually, a great finish-dramatic, traumatic and tantalizing. After much angst (and some snoring kids) when the Patriot's won it on a field goal, we all breathed a sigh of relief, not only for the underdogs, but also for ourselves: like the rest of the cosmos we couldn't have gone through much more excess-a melodramatic overtime---that would have been a kind of "athletic purgatory." We were thankful for being spared the drawn out drama-how many more au courant commercials, tantalizing time-outs, and philosophical commentator analyses could we all take, not to mention?

When watching the "warm-up" for "the Game" and all the additive-hype- didn't you just want to strip it all away and say, "Let's get to the game itself!"?

Lent, like that feeling and question above, is a time for pruning and purifying the excess in our lives so we can get to God Himself-and so, He can get to us. Whether it is food or drink, clothes or spending, addictive behaviors, gossip or anger-we all have some excess in our lives that is, like the Super Bowl hype-preventing true union with the Blessed Trinity.

For many Americans it is an excess of things to do-"multi-tasker" is the buzzword describing a person who wants to do voluminous things in a given time or day…For "video-excess" look at the TV screen: today you can't simply watch one image on it; now there are "scrolls" and "announcements" at the top and bottom of the screen to fill our drive for more…Then we fall into the temptation of the "You are what you own" syndrome and spend exceeding amounts of money on lifestyle possessions and wardrobes. For technological excess consider how many things, gadgets and electronic games families and children own and seemingly need.

It seems we just have too much in our lives and culture and are mired in it. A favorite descriptor of our times, and which happens to be a magazine article, is: "BURNED OUT AND BORED." The writer describes how many Americans are seeking more and more in life -new thrills, more acquisitions, different and more fulfilling lifestyles, and want of more money. And the more we get, the more we want, and this then fuels more wanting and getting and thus perpetuating higher thresholds of fulfillment, and, unless a radical shift occurs, the vicious cycle never stops.

Lent is a time to analyze this enslaving cycle toward excess in our lives, to "arrest it" and then begin to "disarm" it. First, we can do this negatively--by pruning and denying the reckless desires within, and second, positively, by replacing these with sacred desires (St. Augustine).

A Dominican priest once said, wisely, "The spiritual life is not one of addition, but of subtraction."- stripping away the unnecessary material things in our lives, the mental, inner attitudes (negative and wrongful thoughts), and the wanton appetites that propel us blindly. This is why the image and reality of the DESERT is so important in our spiritual life: we must go out there, into the "wilderness of challenge"-releasing the seemingly-needed things of life along the way so we can travel across the spiritual expanse, and enter into the sweaty, toiling and perspiring process of purification to pilgrimage more freely toward That Oasis of Refreshment--God Himself-Whom alone can give true life.

We all need to subtract (strip away), simplify (focus) and sanitize (make holy) our outer and unregenerate lives (cf. Eph 4:22ff) so Christ can dwell in us and use us as His instruments…


  • Take a note from Nature: God has stripped the trees and plant kingdom, much of the environment around us of some natural beauty and external adornment; in the bareness we can penetrate to the inner nature of things-what a particular tree really, more intimately looks like; what a horizon manifests without encropping leaves;
  • What THOUGHTS, WORDS or DEEDS are excessive, overlade with self, sin or faultiness that I need to correct, purify
  • How have I not considered, by my excessive worry, pre-occupation, others in my life-family and friends
  • How have I neglected the poor, sick and dying because of my excessive self-concern?
  • THE ATMOSPHERE OF LENT: Our Glass Chapel is sparingly decorated. For Lent all Catholic Church's atmosphere's inspire us toward a spirituality of "LESS IS MORE", so as to focus on the Liturgy itself and pruning our own souls for God's glory.

Read other Sermons by Father John J. Lombardi