Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord.
To write the same things to you is not troublesome to me, and for you it is a safeguard.
Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh! For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh—even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.
If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:1-11
Today is Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, which ends the season of Epiphany with a Carnevale, or literally, "giving up of meat". We are preparing today for tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Traditionally Christians gave up many things, including fat, sugar and meat and focused inwardly during Lent. Lent invites us to go deeper, to be honest and penitent, to focus our hearts and minds on the suffering and offering of Christ. In our times there are many ways to keep a holy Lent, including giving up comforts, and also by taking on disciplines and performing services to others. Today is the day to rejoice in our blessings. Whatever you do, remember, tomorrow, sisters and brothers, it will be Lent, so delight in the gifts God has given us.
Paul, writing to the believers in Philippi, reminds them that all that we have comes through Christ's suffering and his perfect humanity, a humanity that was willing to lay it all down for the sake of others. His love for us, more perfect than what we might accomplish, is a foretaste of the love we have in God, and will be with us through all our trials and temptations. We can abide in the hope and promises of Christ, through faith, because he knows our sufferings, knows well our pain, and walks with us through the darkest and most dreadful times. Paul, who thought himself to be righteous before his encounter with Christ, now can reflect the love that Christ has give us, and understands how incomplete and fragile we all are. We are invited to take an inventory of all that God has done for us, all that we are and will be, so that we can know the depths of love that originate from the heart of God. For that, Paul reminds us that there is always cause for rejoicing.
Today, I ask God to help me rejoice in the Lord. May we see the gifts and beauty around us and know that God is present, here in our broken world. May we celebrate those many gifts raucously today, so that we may go with joy to our knee tomorrow. May we give thanks for the blessings as we prepare to seek a new and deeper relationship with the living God.