Yesterday, Ash Wednesday, we were invited by Jesus to join Him by entering the journey that is the Lenten season. This holy time will be marked by prayer, fasting, and sharing in the works of mercy. It will also bid us to reflect upon the presence of the cross in our lives, one that takes so many different forms – sickness, rejection, grief, crisis, misunderstanding, to name just a few. May this song – one of my favorites – help us to remember that on this journey we are not alone. He goes before us and He walks by our side, giving us strength, being our strength for the journey…
It occurred to me this morning that this is the 49th year since I’ve been “conscious” of Ash Wednesday ushering in the beginning of Lent. Between my parents, my teachers at St. Brendan in New Haven, and the whole environment of our parish church, I had a great formation and I believe it was during 2nd grade, when I was 7 years old, that my first recollections of Lent began… 49 Ash Wednesday’s and seasons of Lent later, here I am, beginning again, with all my sisters and brothers in faith. I’m ready to enter the journey once more time. But I’m asking myself, “Will this year be different?” “Can I make it different? How?”
This year our Lenten season falls into the greater context of the Year of Mercy. Inspired by Pope Francis, this year gives us the opportunity to experience mercy – mercy given as well as mercy received. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy will be our “road map”. Each day of Lent I’ll be posting here some thoughts to ponder as well as practical suggestions to make them come alive. Perhaps it is here, in deciding to embrace living out the works of mercy, that this year will be different…
For today, Ash Wednesday has a penitential tone to it. We are signed with ashes and are called to fast. On this point, Francis that “fasting makes sense if it really chips away at our security and, as a consequence, benefits someone else, if it helps us cultivate the style of the good Samaritan, who bent down to his brother in need and took care of him.”
Let us pray that, through our fasting, our eyes and ears may be open to recognize who is that brother or sister in need of our extra attention, our listening, our remembrance in prayer, our care today. In the same way, let us allow ourselves to receive the care of another, reaching out to us in our need.
I’m praying for you…. Please pray for me.
A last thought to share with you from the text I shared earlier on “Just Mercy”…
Even as we are caught in a web of hurt and brokenness, we’re also in a web of healing and mercy. How does mercy work?
The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving. It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent – strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and suffering. It has the power to heal the psychic harm and injuries that lead to aggression and violence, abuse of power, mass incarceration.
All of us encounter the broken and brokenhearted among our family members and friends, those with whom we serve and those we serve, in the passing acquaintance as well as in the complete stranger….and in ourselves. It can be overwhelming, but let us not give up on each other nor on ourselves. Most of all, let us not ever give up on God’s grace! We are each and all instruments of God’s grace, agents of His Will, in this great Year of Mercy…
One of my dearest friends gifted me at Christmas with “Just Mercy”, a book about justice and redemption. More than being what I would term an “interesting read”, it has been disturbing and provocative. And sometimes that’s what I/we need. After a month of reading several pages at a time (you need to take it incrementally), I’ve come to the end of my reading, very much thinking about what I can do to translate the effect of the pages in my own life. I want to share with you what I would consider to be one of the two passages that go to the heart of our pondering “mercy” in this Jubilee Year of Mercy…
“Being close to suffering, death, executions, and cruel punishments didn’t just illuminate the brokenness of others; in a moment of anguish and heartbreak, it also exposed by own brokenness. You can’t effectively fight abusive power, poverty, inequality, illness, oppression, or injustice and not be broken by it…
…We are all broken by something. We have all hurt someone and have been hurt. We all share the condition of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent. But our shared brokenness connects us…
…Being broken is what makes us human. We all have our reasons. Sometimes we’re fractured by the choices we make; sometimes we’re shattered by things we never would have chosen. But our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis for our shared search for comfort, meaning, and healing. Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion. We have a choice. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing. Or we can deny our brokenness, forswear compassion, and, as a result, deny our own humanity.
There is no wholeness outside of our reciprocal humanity.
Yesterday’s post for the first day of Advent called us to reflect on the things that all of us have that can be used to answer the call to love. Staying with the same aspects of our face, eyes, ears, mouth, hands, feet and heart, let’s spend a moment today to reflect on how they can help us to make a loving response to God, “Use me, Lord!”
Let me be Your caring face, sharing You in every place where Your Presence is distant.
Let me be Your loving eyes, focusing on lonely cries where sight of You remains obscured.
Let me be Your patient ears, listening to shoe sighs and fears where Your healing hope is faint.
Let me be Your mouth to speak consoling truth to the weak where Your words are still silent.
Let me be Your gentle hands, serving as the need demands where Your touch has not been felt.
Let me be Your sturdy feet, walking ‘midst the cold and heat where Your path is yet unknown.
Let me be Your open heart, embracing those kept apart where Your love is not alive.
Let me be and let me do all I can in praise of You. Use me, Lord, now and always!
Today the Christian world begins a new liturgical year and the time of immediate preparation for the great Feast of the Incarnation – Christmas.
I take my reflection for today from a dear friend of mine, Sr. Marie Roccapriore, a member of the Philippini Sisters located in the community in Meriden. Sr. Marie writes:
Every person is called by God to share gifts of love and healing. Each of us is called to be a heart through which loves pours out, hands through which love heals, a mind through which love thinks, a voice through which love speaks, and a face through which love is visibly radiant…
God calls me to be love’s EYES: to see new life…to see growth…to see brokenness…to see tears…to see smiles…to see pain…to see recovery… to see grieving…to see joys…to see love’s image at work. Praise God for the gift of my eyes!
God calls me to be love’s EARS: to hear myself…to hear others…to hear beyond words…to hear noises…to hear silence…to hear the cooing of babies…to hear the sighs of the elderly…to hear and to listen to the cries of the oppressed…to hear with compassion and understanding…to hear with patience. Praise God for the gift of my ears!
God calls me to be love’s NOSE: to smell the sweet scent of blossoms…to smell the stench of sickness and life turned sour…to smell the fragrance of purity and godliness…to smell the perfumed wax of candles dispelling darkness…to smell the incense of prayer rising up to glorify God. Praise God for the gift of my nose!
God calls me to be love’s MOUTH: to taste the peace of forgiveness…to taste the joys of healing hope…to taste the spices of friendship…to taste the effects of honesty and integrity…to taste the special communion of caring sisters and brothers…to taste the Bread and Wine – nourishment for body and soul. Praise God for the gift of my mouth!
Dear God, help [us] to be faithful in living out this call to be love’s face, in every place, today, tomorrow, and always.
Let us keep one another in prayer as we make this Advent journey together!
Whatever your news source, a quick glance at the “Breaking News” section in last days of summer has thrust us immediately into many accounts of tragedy and loss, injustice and strife globally, nationally and locally. The really sad thing is that this is not “new news” and that fact brings along a temptation to slowly and subtly become desensitized to it. What are we called to do to counter this? What are some of the ways that I can help to change and heal the world?
Recently someone share a very practical prayer with me that you may find helpful too. Let it be a prayer for all of us today…
May God bless us with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships so that we may seek truth boldly and love deep with our hearts. May God bless us with holy anger at injustice, freedom, and peace among all people. May God bless us with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish so that we may reach out our hand to comfort them and transform that pain into joy. May God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we really CAN make a difference in this world so that we are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done. Send us discomfort, holy anger, tears and enough foolishness to use it all as fuel to heal the world.
Let us pray for all those hurting, but while we pray let us also MOVE OUR FEET and REACH OUT OUR HANDS. After we have learned enough, let us get off the couch, turn off the TV, put down all the technology to which we are chained, and stop lamenting that we can’t heal the whole world. Let us GO OUT and HEAL THE WORLD WITHIN OUR REACH!
Let us do for ONE OTHER PERSON what we wish we could do FOR THE WORLD. Let us focus on the small things today….small things done with GREAT LOVE!
May the Lord bless us. Amen!
Let us keep moving forward…