Monday, February 15, 2016

Sharing our Joy

Wednesday, we began our Lenten journey to Easter. The word “Lent” comes from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning spring. Yes, Lent symbolizes the renewal of our spiritual life. The point of Lent is revitalizing our relationships with God and one another.

Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness
I think of a true story. The father was a common laborer; the mother, chronically ill. With a succession of small apartments, simple food, hand-me-downs, their son wanted to escape. By age 40, he realized the so-called American dream: partnership with an investment firm, a big house, affluence.

Then, his father died. And the son found a letter written in his father’s hand, dated years before. The letter noted doctors told his parents they could never have a child of their own, expressed his father’s joy in their “miracle child,” and concluded:

“Son, I’ll never be rich. But I believe that when God helped us find our way to you, God also would be ‘beside us’ the rest of our lives. We would always have each other and that’s more than I ever hoped for. Just keep in mind who you are, where you’ve come from, and how much we love you, our miracle child.”

It was only then that the son realized what mattered in life.

Lent challenges us to refocus on what truly matters and to have a change of heart: to become more aware of God’s presence in our daily lives, and to pay more attention to the needs of others.

In the Gospel according to Luke, the devil appears as a seductive voice, tempting Jesus to use his powers to satisfy his own hunger and gain earthly power. But Jesus refuses.

These are temptations that many people face: self-indulgence, pursuing power unscrupulously, craving fame. Jesus remains true to his identity and vocation. To God alone belongs the glory.

Our Christian Lenten discipline focuses on being true to our identity. Baptism brands us and transforms us into into “new creatures.” We are Christened, plunged into the mystery of Jesus Christ. The living Christ lives in us and we in Him.
Lent challenges us to re-discover and re-treat ourselves to.

Prayer: an awareness of our dependency upon God, a grateful response for our fragile lives. Prayer brings to consciousness the presence of God that is already around us and within us. Now there are many approaches: familiar prayers like the Our Father, the liturgy, the prayer of silence or petition. All of these are simply pathways into the presence of God.

Fasting: for early Christians, going without food “enabled the hungry to eat.” Our Lenten fast can also mean doing without other things: anger, impatience, selfishness, negative judgments, whatever prevents us from living the Gospel message of love.

Alms-giving. Share what we have. Our time. Our talent. Volunteer. Share with needy people, if we can. Share ourselves: smile more often so others know that you want them to share your joy. Pay attention to people’s needs.

And share mercy. Pope Francis’s new book is titled, “The Name of God is Mercy.” An excellent subject for our Lenten reading.

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