Lent is just about here! (Gulp). While we might dread the idea of penance or sacrifice, we know that it’s all about (or should be about) love. Love means sacrifice, and over the next forty days we try to unite in small ways to the loving sacrifice Jesus made for us. Here is a beautiful reflection on the season of Lent from Bishop Robert Barron (wordonfire.org) and points of focus for the first few days. May this season be one of holiness and love for you and your family.
May you know the peace of Christ,
“As we begin this Lenten season tomorrow (Ash Wednesday), let’s enter the desert the way a marathoner enters into his training, or a professor into her research, or a businessperson into a challenging project: with a joyful and excited resolve. In the desert, we’ll meet a God who is love, through and through. Let us spend these holy days responding to the delights and demands of that love.
Over the next forty-seven days, resolve to perform a particular and sustained act of love.
Make several visits to your relative in the nursing home. Converse regularly with a lonely person on your block. Tutor and befriend a kid who might be in danger of losing his way. Repair a broken friendship. Bring together bickering factions at your place of work. Make a number of financial contributions to a worthy organization that needs help.
Numerous spiritual masters have witnessed to something odd: belief in God is confirmed and strengthened not so much from intellectual effort as from moral action.
The Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross said that in the evening of life we shall be judged according to our love. In Matthew 25, the nature of love is specified. It is not primarily a feeling, an attitude, or a conviction but rather a concrete act on behalf of those in need—the hungry, the homeless, the lonely, the imprisoned, the forgotten. It is the bearing of another’s burden.
When a man asked the English Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins what he must do in order to believe, Hopkins replied, ―Give alms.
As you love through tangible acts, you will come to believe more deeply and to enter more fully into friendship with God.
Something I have noticed over the years is that the holiest people in our tradition are those who are most aware of their sinfulness. Whether it is Paul, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Teresa of Avila, Thérèse of Lisieux, or Mother Teresa, the saints are those who are convinced of their inadequacy.
When Isaiah encounters the Lord he says, ―I am a man of unclean lips!‖ When Peter is in the presence of the Messiah he says, ―Lord, leave me, for I am a sinful man.‖ G.K. Chesterton once said, ―A saint only means a man who really knows that he is a sinner.‖ …
At least part of being a saint is knowing you’re a sinner.
There is a regrettable interpretation of the cross that has, unfortunately, infected the minds of many Christians. This is the view that the bloody sacrifice of the Son on the cross was ―satisfying‖ to the Father, and was given for the appeasement of a God infinitely angry at sinful humanity. In this reading, the crucified Jesus is like a child hurled into the fiery mouth of a pagan divinity in order to assuage its wrath.
But what ultimately refutes this twisted theology is the well-known passage from John’s Gospel: ―God so loved the world, that he sent his only Son, that all who believe in him might have eternal life.‖ John reveals that it is not out of anger or vengeance or in a desire for retribution that the Father sends the Son, but precisely out of love. God the Father is not some pathetic divinity whose bruised personal honor needs to be restored; rather God is a parent who burns with compassion for his children who have wandered into danger.
Does the Father hate sinners? No, but he hates sin. Does God harbor indignation at the unjust? No, but God despises injustice. Thus God sends his Son, not gleefully to see him suffer, but compassionately to set things right…
Jesus said that any disciple of his must be willing to take up his cross and follow the master. If God is self-forgetting love even to the point of death, then we must be such love. If God is willing to break open his own heart, then we must be willing to break open our hearts for others. The cross, in short, must become the very structure of the Christian life.