Today I invited both Sr Julia Mary and Jeannette de Beauvoir for a conversation about Lent... Lent in a pandemic, doing penance when we feel like we've been doing penance all year, should we make resolutions for Lenten practice or is there something better, what are some secrets for a fruitful and grace-filled Lent. I hope you join us!
Here we are in our second pandemic Lent. Maybe we feel that we have been in Lent all through these twelve virus-riddled months. Maybe we’re dreading a season of greater penance when we’re longing to get loose from restrictions as they are somewhat lifted. Maybe we’re just numb and Lent isn’t registering at all. We’re just too tired to face it. Or perhaps the familiar rituals and practices of Lent offer comfort when we are so in need of something or Someone who understands and can do something. about what’s happening to us.
I stood beside the leper in Mark’s Gospel who dared to approach Jesus and tell him confidently: “If you will, you can cure me!” Lepers by regulation, as we saw above, were to remain outside the camp so as not to infect others. This leper, however, risked everything by approaching Jesus who no doubt was surrounded by a crowd of people. In the two lines of the Gospel story it seems like it was an ordinary run-of-the-mill request. Leper shows up and makes his request. To his request, Jesus responds, “I do will it, be cured.” End of story. Can you imagine, though, the drama as people realized a leper was standing “inside the community space” right next to them. The leper was a threat to their health and survival. And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched the leper. Jesus didn’t run. He didn’t tell him to leave because he was a danger to him. He didn’t even call attention to how he was breaking the regulations. Instead he heard only the request. He saw only the leper’s heart. He was moved only by his most compassionate love that brought him to earth to save and heal a wounded race.
These past two weeks I have spent from 3 to 5 hours most evenings or early mornings sitting beside a dear sister-friend who was making her last great ascent. That final walk. The ultimate journey. The loving return.
Each breath of hers was precious and on that last night before she died God helped me to realize that in the end, really, that is all we have…our breath…our current breath. We are not promised our next breath. We already have kissed the last breath goodbye. We cannot cling to it, as we cannot hold onto the past.
And even that breath is a gift. A gift of total gratuitously glorious love from a divine Lover who is supporting us in his arms even as we breath.
On that last ascent, it will not matter what we have created or achieved or known or acquired. The fact that I have written a book, or started a company, or sold an astounding number of widgets, or even loved will not be mine as a monument to me..
I will have only this breath that is a gift to me right now at this moment.
The years of midlife. Transitions. Endings. Wanderings. Grieving.
But also new beginnings. Surprises. Unexpected redirection. Unsuspected rewrites to your accepted narrative for the “you” that you’ve grown comfortable with.
This is the first in a series on the middle years in which we are looking at our midlife transitions, our ultimate yesses to our vocations in the light of the women and men who at midlife responded to God's gift and call. Today we're talking about Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist.
This year’s Christmas season is not laden with the expectations of extended family celebrations, festive Christmas meals, and open doors to visitors come to share the joy of the days of rest and peace that fill the Christmas season.
Pandemic loss and grief weigh upon these Christmas days and bring shadows to our hearts.
Maybe we feel empty. Like the world has stopped. Worry for the future seeps into the celebration of God-with-us who was born among us…. And…where is he for me? Now?
Your heart’s cry, whatever it may be, let it blend with the wail of the Infant King that midnight at his birth.
Sr Kathryn Hermes, FSP, author of Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach and Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life's Disappointments
This is probably a more difficult Advent than most, a time when we long for the joys of Christmas, even for our own emotional equilibrium. Today we talk about how God stoops to us in our weakness with an amazing love that changes everything.
This Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King. I've been thinking a lot about the Kingdom of Christ within me, how I surrender to the power of the King, how I turn my life over entirely to the reign of the Kingdom. As we close this year, it is a perfect liturgical Feast to prepare us for Advent and Christmas. Both an end and a beginning.
When we nourish ourselves on the Word of God we gradually are able to see an unexpected, unearned future: new life, a new heart, a new future, a new relationship with God. The word of the Lord became a part of Ezekiel’s being when the prophet was told at his calling, "Eat the Scroll," and it can become a part of our being as well. When we regularly digest God’s word, options become available to us that we couldn’t anticipate.
In the Gospels Jesus often asks seemingly useless questions. He asks a blind man, “Do you want to see?” He asks a leper, “What do you want me to do for you?” He asks a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years and is sitting by the side of the sheep pool, “Do you want to be made well?” What answer was Jesus expecting?
If we are suffering with anxiety or depression, or just trying to to survive these last months of 2020, the attempt to just survive can contract our personal universe to a “safe” size. Our thinking patterns can become caught in overcontrolled ruts. We lose flexibility in favor of the fight/flight/freeze mechanism that leads to hypervigilance and shutdown.
Jesus invites us to see in new ways.