For Sunday, February 26, 2012
1st Sunday of Lent
1 Peter 3:18-22
It's promoted as the hottest, driest, and lowest location in the United States. The National Park Service promotes the natural beauty of Death Valley calling it: "A superlative desert of streaming sand dunes, snow-capped mountains, multicolored rock layers, water-fluted canyons and 3 million acres of wilderness." Many visitors come in the spring to see the colorful blooms of wildflowers that occur when the winter rains are sufficient. Of the more than one thousand plant species that exist in the Mojave/Great Basin biosphere of which Death Valley is a part, five percent are endemic to the region, existing nowhere else on earth. It's no wonder that nature lovers would seek out the natural beauty of this park, following its roads and byways. With visitor centers and ranger guided tours, Death Valley is much more accessible than it was in the days of prospectors and pioneers.
But modern technology can often lead someone astray in the wide-open spaces of Death Valley, California. Of the more than quarter million visitors who come to the park while visiting California, many come by rental car. They have a GPS unit and rely unquestioningly on the unit's directions. They trust so much in the GPS, that they're willing to let it lead them into the middle of nowhere.
In 2009, Alicia Sanchez spent five days in the wilderness after following GPS directions. In the end, she laid down next to her car and prepared to die. Fortunately, Ranger Amber Nattrass found her and brought her to safety. Alicia's 6-year-old son, Carlos, was not so lucky.
Death Valley wilderness coordinator Charlie Callagan calls these tragic situations "death by GPS," because people blindly follow what they believe to be correct information. In the past few years, Death Valley managers have been working with technology companies to remove closed and hazardous roads from GPS units. They also have posted warnings on the park's website, telling visitors not to rely on cell phones or GPS units.
Visiting a national park like Death Valley can be an enlightening experience, as long as you don't let your GPS unit set the direction for you once you're in the desert.
Jesus had a different kind of GPS that pushed him out into the desert in Sunday's Gospel. Instead of a (G)lobal (P)ositioning (S)ystem, Jesus had (G)od's (P)rovident (S)pirit driving him out into the desert. Jesus didn't go into the desert right after his baptism to see beautiful spring flowers. According to Mark, he was tempted by Satan and ministered to by angels. When he returned to Galilee he began to proclaim the kingdom of God.
We are beginning Lent, a time of repentance and renewal. We need God's Provident Spirit to see us through these forty days, not to lead us down a physical road, but to lead us in the paths of righteousness and holiness. Our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are designed to draw us closer to Christ so that when Easter comes, we can renew our baptismal vows with firm commitment and renewed joy. Let's program our GPS today!
as we begin this joyful season of Lent
we seek the guidance of your Holy Spirit
to lead us with firm purpose
to a renewal of acts of repentance and charity.
Deepen our prayer; affirm our fasting;
and make us joyful in our almsgiving
that our hearts may be reborn in your love.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
2012 CATHOLIC PARISH WEBSITE OF THE YEAR
Would you like $500 for your parish? Is your parish website informative and attractive? Enter the 2012 Catholic Parish Website of the Year Contest sponsored by LPi and the Catholic Tech Talk Blog. Check out the entry details at: http://catholictechtalk.com/contests/?doing_wp_cron=1329193377.
CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES COLLECTION
Many dioceses will take up the annual Catholic Relief Services Collection on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 18, 2012. A vast array of resources for use by parishes is available on the USCCB website at: http://usccb.org/catholic-giving/opportunities-for-giving/catholic-relief-services-collection/.
FORMING CONSCIENCES FOR FAITHFUL CITIZENSHIP
Bulletin articles, podcasts, Scripture study, lesson plans, discussion guides, and worship ideas are all available from the USCCB in this election year. Plan now how you will use these resources in your parish in this election year. You can access all of these items at: http://usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/.
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