Sunday, March 6, 2011
In a mere three days, we begin the season of Lent, the most solemn season of the Christian calendar. Lent is unique among the liturgical seasons because of its contemplative nature. It is a time of deep introspection. It is a time of honest examination of where we are in terms of our relationship with Jesus Christ. It is a time of not only looking back to see what we have done wrong and correct the conditions that caused this wrong-doing, but also a time of looking forward into the future to see where God might be taking us. In addition, Lent is also a time of healing broken relationships in our lives.
Jesus came to teach us and to heal our brokenness. He came to deliver to us the hope of the Heavenly Father, that we would one day join Him in the heavens for an eternal joy that is not known nor even comprehended upon this earth.
He taught us through both words and actions that all our thoughts, all that we do should be done in honor of the Father who sacrificed everything so that we may have this promised eternal life. From the Beatitudes given to us at the Sermon on the Mount to the great Priestly Prayer at the Last Supper, Jesus showed us the way to His heavenly kingdom. He taught us how to live among each other in the Spirit of Love that flows from the Father, takes life in the Son, and touches our hearts through the Spirit.
He taught us the importance of personal and private prayer through His own example. Numerous times in the Gospel we see Jesus going off by Himself, often for long periods of time, to pray to His Father in Heaven. This was His lifeline. From the beginning of His ministry when He went off into the desert for forty days to the night before He died, Jesus conversed with His Father continually through prayer. His very life was prayer, a living communication with the Creator. It was through this prayer that He was kept in perpetual harmony with the Will of God. We need to emulate the prayerful actions of the Savior who never condemned the sinner but fully disdained the sin. Nowadays, we seem to have that completely reversed. We are quick to condemn the person but ignore the actions.
Jesus taught us the great lesson that seems to have been lost on our modern society, that of sacrifice. His entire existence represented sacrifice. His Incarnation, God lowering Himself to become man, was a sacrifice. He gave to all throughout His life. A quick glance at the Gospels will reveal that often He was surrounded by huge crowds seeking healing and teaching and He never turned His back on them. He always answered their pleas sometimes in ways they did not anticipate nor welcome, but answer He did! We can attest to that today. Our own lives are perfect examples of the Master answering our prayers but not always in ways that we had hoped.
Throughout the season of Lent, we are asked to sacrifice, to give up something that has meaning to us. We are not asked to do this in a negative fashion. Every time we may desire that thing that we have given up, our thoughts should turn the Lord our God from Whom all good things come so that we can more clearly see the origin of our happiness. Its not so much what we give up that counts, it is what we put into it that will fulfill our needs to be filled with the Spirit of the Lord.
Perhaps the second most important thing we need to contemplate during these weeks leading to the great celebration of Easter is that of our relationships with others. How have we been wounded in this area of our lives? How willing are we to follow in the footsteps of the Crucified Christ who cried out to God, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do?" (Lk 23:24) How eager are we to turn the other cheek as Jesus taught us? (cf Matt 5:39) To what lengths are we willing to go to really put on Christ as St. Paul instructs us to do? (cf Rom 13:14)
Lent is a time of great opportunity to draw nearer to God our Creator and, in the process, to one another. It doesn't require a great deal of us. Just a little time and a great deal of love and desire for the One who gave His all so that we might live eternally with the Father, united by the love of the Spirit and the sacrifice of the Son. This is time well-spent that will make the supreme joy of Easter burn even brighter in our hears and minds!