Forming our future
By Karla Luke
Lent has always been my favorite time of year. So many things happen during those forty days! Time change, spring break, seafood, seasons change, oh did I happen to mention spring break! Spiritually, I have always looked forward to this time of renewal – the time that the Church teaches us to focus our actions on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, in an effort to deepen our relationship with Christ.
As children, some years ago, we were encouraged to “give up” something for Lent to show that we suffer with Christ. Through the years, I have “given up” everything from chocolate, sodas, and favorite TV shows to impatience, judgment, and unforgiveness. But if we want to truly deepen our relationship with Christ, we must move beyond the stage of merely sharing in His suffering and realize the purpose of His suffering: to hear the call to action. We as Catholic Christians are called to do more!
Consider this part of the Gospel proclaimed on Monday, the first week of Lent, Matthew 25:37-38, “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?’” Those very words remind me of the Holy Father’s Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium in which he urges us to “go out” and meet Christ by having a personal encounter with others. We, as a church have many opportunities to fulfill our Lenten obligation to pray, fast and give alms simply by encountering the people around us.
On the road to Calvary, Jesus encountered many who shared in His suffering, but only a few moved beyond that sharing and took action. In the fourth station, Jesus met His mother who, unafraid of what others might think, offered Him gentleness and comfort to soothe Him on this difficult journey. In the fifth station, Simon of Cyrene, an unwilling participant along the way, helped Christ carry His cross.
Though scripture does not tell us directly, I choose to believe that Simon must have been transformed by this experience with Jesus. In the sixth station, Veronica in an act of love wiped the face of the suffering Messiah. In that moment, Jesus showed us once again that if we come to Him in faith, He will bless us in return. He left Veronica with an imprint of his countenance upon her cloth.
While many see these times as challenging; financially, politically and socially, I see an area of great opportunity for us to prove that we are indeed able to carry out the kingdom of God on earth. The opportunity to meet Christ in the homeless, immigrants and the working poor is also present in meeting the fallen away, the uncaring, the angry and those whose hearts are wounded. These, our brothers and sisters in Christ, are all worthy of our continuous prayers. We help our universal family, not so much by changing their condition; but, by changing ourselves! We embrace the spirit of “going out” from within ourselves, without fear like Mary, sometimes unwilling like Simon, to share the gift of ourselves with others only to see the imprint of Christ upon our hearts.
So, as we approach this halfway mark during this holy season of Lent, my favorite time of year, let’s use the remaining twenty-one days, to listen to the call of Pope Francis and “go out” – out from within yourselves, to share empathetically in the plight of others by praying for all people.
Let’s fast from selfishness, anger, hatred, indifference, judging others and lack of forgiveness; all of which keep us from being a loving community. Give your alms by sharing material goods but also by sharing yourself, a true gift of God, with others. Blessings on a Holy Lenten season!
(Karla Luke is the Coordinator of operational and support service for Catholic Schools in the diocese. She can be contact at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Forming our future