Onward via the dusty path of Lent

| Deacon Gordon Bird | March 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

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Lenten journeys often take us beyond the ordinary landmarks and horizons of our spiritual lives. The ashes we accepted a few weeks ago were cleansing — they reminded us that Lent is a time for sacrifice. They help us reflect on a salient truth: that our lives are not our own. Lent is a time to live the fullness of life — of being fully human as Jesus taught us — despite the difficult environment that life can at times present to us.

A month has passed since we were given the signs of ashes as an element of our faith. Externally gone, the dust continues to stir internally as we make our way through this journey. It is a tension that stretches us between the present moment to the providence of God as we hope in the promise to come — eternal life with our Lord.

Lent is intended to draw us closer to God and leave behind things that distance ourselves from him. It helps us prepare to undertake the tough challenges and consequences we face. Some, no doubt, encounter more trials and tribulations than others, such as division within the family, conflict in the workplace, the bitterness of political scuffles and lack of faith in a culture left “wanting.” Not to forget that we are now deliberating and responding to the worldwide effects of a new threat to our health. Yet we journey on through Lent to seek peace, solace and absolution through personal conversion and self-sacrifice, through love of God and love of neighbor.

“God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13). The Apostle Paul in this passage reminds his brethren that even during the toughest challenges, there is no room for true followers of Christ to bail out on doing what is right.

The beauty of Lent is that it provides the time for us to get back to the fundamentals, to reflect upon, pray for and work through our current challenges. To remember that God has provided for us in the past and he will continue to provide the strength for his people to persevere through their most troublesome times. Notwithstanding all his divine revelations and visions, Paul witnessed his own “thorn” of affliction to keep him humble as he wrote, “Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Cor 12:8-9).

Jesus reaffirms the importance of three traditional works of mercy: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. This is clear in the mid-part of his Sermon on the Mount discourse, where he is trying to restore the people back to God (see Mt 5–7). It is a beautiful yet trying bit to read. The new covenant comes into play, where accepting and following the teachings of the Lord present our path to heaven. It is indeed a difficult, dusty path to traverse — we know life is hard — and Jesus instructs sternly, yet with benevolence, a way for his flock to be more fully restored in their hearts.

Lent gives the opportunity to work on fundamentally sound works of spiritual and corporal mercy in the context of our own lives. There is the charitable allocation of our time, talent and treasure as we carve out of our own resources for the sake of others (almsgiving). So often they come from prayerful requests and intentions we learn about, seek out and find. And fasting teaches us that we can do with less, so we can give more of self to those in our lives that have simple and complex needs.

As Catholic Watchmen, we try to lead in the breach and at the heights — body and spirit — in this virtue of self-gift. That is especially true now on this dusty, Lenten journey, where we can grow so much closer to God and take others with us in charity, in prayer, in fasting. Not only do our families benefit, but so do our relatives and neighbors, our parishes and the greater community in which we live — all for whom strong, faithful families are so vital.

Deacon Bird ministers at St. Joseph in Rosemount, All Saints in Lakeville, and assists the Catholic Watchmen movement. Reach him at gordonbird@rocketmail.com. Learn about the archdiocese’s Catholic Watchmen initiative at the-catholic-watchmen.com.

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Category: Catholic Watchmen