Revolutionary Christianity

I have heard it said that it is easy to admire the teachings of Jesus, but it is difficult to follow them.

In December I blogged about Aelred R. Rosser, a Catholic priest who wrote books on how to interpret and effectively proclaim Bible readings at Mass on Sundays and on holy days. His message for this past Ash Wednesday, originally published almost thirty years ago, was so powerful* to me that I decided to post much of it word for word:

“Lent is a time for getting back to basics. It is a time for examining and reevaluating our priorities … We need to call ourselves back to the simplicity of our belief and mission.

“The good works we do, the sacrifices we make, the alms we give are simply a matter of justice. It is difficult for me to write a check for a needy cause without feeling like I have done something special. In one sense I have, of course, because I’ve recognized a need. But I must keep reminding myself that what I have given away always belonged to the needy person who received it. The extra prayers I say are simply what is appropriate. The fasting I do, the abstinence, is simply deciding not to eat or drink something that really belongs to anyone who needs it more than I do.

“Looking at our good Lenten works this way shows how ridiculous it is to blow our horn, to brag about our piety or be an exhibitionist in our self-denial. We give things up because someone needs them more than we do. Rather than brag about our generosity, we might be embarrassed that we were keeping for ourselves what belonged to someone else. This is the kind of revolutionary Christianity we get when we take Jesus at his word. How long will it take us to realize that as long as there is one hungry person in the world, we’re not doing our job?”


Rosser, Aelred R. Workbook for Lectors and Gospel Readers, Year A. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1990/1993/2002. Print.

liturgy workbook - Ash Wednesday Gospel
The page from Fr. Rosser’s Workbook showing the Gospel reading for Ash Wednesday.

*The editors at WordPress.com, the platform that hosts this blog, offered its community this “Daily Prompt” word for today: Vivid — “producing powerful feelings or strong, clear images in the mind,” according to a search result on Google.

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