Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lent: A Season of Hope?

It is only natural to think of Lent as a somber season, a season of deep contemplation about our relationship with God and what we can do to correct our sinful nature.  It is seen as a time of focus upon our upcoming commemoration of our Lord's Passion and Death as played out during Holy Week liturgies.

While all of these things are true, Lent can also be seen as a season of hope.

Without the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, God become man, we would have no hope whatsoever.  But because He did consent to become man, our hope is alive and well in Him.  We can hope because of the saving act of Good Friday.  He willingly chose to die for us so that we would have eternal life.  So often during this season, we focus only on the events of Holy Thursday and Good Friday, nearly forgetting that without Easter these two days would mean nothing.  But because there is a Resurrection of the Savior, Holy Thursday and Good Friday have become two of the most holy of days throughout the year.

We are urged to give something up for Lent to aid us along our journey in discovering what is really important in our lives.  When we give something up, we offer this sacrifice to God so that we may clear our minds and lives of some clutter in order to come to know Him better and include Him further in our lives.  In addition to giving something up, it is also important to choose to become a better person through something positive.  Giving something up tends to be a negative approach.  One of the best ways of doing something is learning what the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy are.  These works are actions we can take to reach out to others and help them either with their physical or spiritual needs.  They are actions that allow one to step outside of their own concerns to help someone who may be struggling.

In practicing these works, we come to imitate Christ.  His life was one of complete outreach both to the human race and to His Father through prayer.  What better way do we have of getting closer to someone than to imitate their actions?  In a sense, when we do this, we step into their shoes and experience their life from their vantage point.

These works of mercy are not necessarily labor intensive.  One can put as much into them as they prefer.  The most important thing about them is that they help us turn our hearts and minds to God.  And that is what Lent is all about; looking at the world and those around us as God sees them, not as we view them.

Below is a list of both the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy.  Seriously consider adopting some of these works as a part of your Lenten journey to Easter.  Step outside of yourself and your world and experience life through the eyes of the Lord.  Lent will never look the same again!

Spiritual Works of Mercy

1.  Admonish the sinner.  ". . .there will be more joy in heaven at the repentance of one sinner than at ninety-nine of the righteous who had no need of repentance."  Lk 15: 7
2.  Teach others of Jesus.  "Go into the world and proclaim the good news to all creation."  Mk 16: 15
3.  Counsel the doubtful.  "Peace I leave you.  My peace I give you. . .Let not your hearts be troubled."
     Jn 14: 27
4.  Comfort the sorrowful.  "Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will refresh you."  Mt 11: 28
5.  Bear wrongs patiently.  "Love your enemies.  Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse                         you."  Lk 6: 27-28
6.  Forgive all injuries.  "And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors."  Mt 6: 12
7.  Pray for the living and the dead.  "Father, I desire that they, too, may be with me where I am.  Jn 17: 24

Corporal Works of Mercy

1.  Feed the hungry.  "For I was hungry and you gave me to eat."  Mt 25: 35
2.  Give drink to the thirsty.  "I was thirsty and you gave me to drink."  Mt 25: 35
3.  Clothe the naked.  "I was naked and you clothed me."  Mt 25: 36
4.  Visit the imprisoned.  "I was in prison and you came to me."  Mt 25: 35
5.  Shelter the homeless.  "I was a stranger and you took me in."  Mt 25: 35
6.  Visit the sick.  "I was sick and you cared for me."  Mt 25: 36
7.  bury the dead.  "Amen, I say to you, insofar as you did it for one of least of my brothers, you did it for me."  Mt 25: 40