Bishop Kemme: ‘go to Nazareth’ this Lent

Fr. J.D. Betzen sprinkles ashes on an Ash Wednesday penitent in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita. (Advance photo)

Bishop Carl A. Kemme reflected on Lent as part of the Year of St. Joseph in his Ash Wednesday homily delivered in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

The two observances can be reconciled in one word, he said: Nazareth.

“It was the town of the Holy Family. It was Joseph’s hometown and where he established a home,” Bishop Kemme said. “Now Nazareth, back then, as historians tell us, was perhaps no more than 30 or 40 homes – very crude and simple homes, because most of the people there were relatively poor.”

But one among them, was special, the home of the Holy Family, he said.

After Pope Paul VI visited Nazareth in 1964, Bishop Kemme said, the pope wrote a beautiful reflection describing Nazareth as a school from which we can learn many valuable lessons in the spiritual life.

The world is a cacophony

The pope described the world full of noise as a “cacophony of chattering,” Bishop Kemme said. “Now even made more so by social media where our minds are flooded with thoughts and noises…most of all which, quite honestly, are not worth listening to.”

The School of Nazareth can teach the value of obedience to God’s will to everyone, he said, as the Holy Family did so generously.

Joseph responded to God’s will by taking Mary into his home without embarrassment or shame, the bishop said. Mary, the beautiful virgin, responded with her “fiat” to let it be done to her according to God’s word. And Jesus, Bishop Kemme continued, God’s divine son, but yet still in his human nature, responded to his earthly parents and his heavenly Father.

“Throughout the whole of scripture we see Jesus as the obedient servant of the Lord, all the way to the cross, where he laid down his life in obedience, for the salvation of the world.”

Let Nazareth teach you

The School of Nazareth can teach us the value of simplicity and poverty, he said, a poverty that relies on God for everything. “They looked upon God for everything. Because God was the center of that home.”

Bishop Kemme invited the faithful to go into their spiritual imaginations this Lent into the home of Nazareth. “Go there in your thoughts. Go there in your prayer. Go there in your Lenten penances and reflections.”

Learn the value of obedience to God’s will in all things – all things, he said, not just things we planned but the surprising things God has planned for us, and those that will be revealed to us as they were to Mary and Joseph.

Be open to God’s will, learn the great strength of simplicity of life and poverty of spirit, and live like the Holy family, Bishop Kemme said. “It’s not beyond our capability.”

God is the center of our lives

Those who abide with the Holy Family will emerge from their Lenten journey renewed and more convinced that God is the center of our lives.

“With God at our side – with his mercy and his love and his grace – we will rejoice, even more, completely that Easter joy that awaits us after our Lenten season,” Bishop Kemme said.

“But before then, we must repent. You must do penance for your sins and receive the ashes as the symbol of our desire and our willingness to be people of repentance – true repentance and conversion of heart.”