Now that another Lenten journey has begun I am ready for this annual moment of grace and renewal, and pray you are as well.
St. Paul in the second reading at today’s Mass encourages us to “be reconciled to God.” That in a nutshell sums up the call of this penitential season. I know my own life has been filled with so many new demands, and it is nice to have a formal season of the Church call me back to the basics of the spiritual life, which are at the service of a life of discipleship.
Sin has a way of creeping into all of our lives, especially the sin of pride that tells us we do not need God, or that we can treat others or God’s creation in whatever fashion serves our purposes and there is no such thing as sin. In the limited travels around my new Archdiocese I am learning all over again the raw power and beauty of nature, which also reveals just how insignificant any one person is in the bigger picture of life.
Today’s Office of Readings from the Prophet Isaiah (Chapter 58) teaches us that a true fast that is pleasing to God involves our compassionate engagement with our neighbor. The fast that renews our soul requires actions that improve the lives of others through justice. When we feed the hungry and set the oppressed free we allow God’s light to break into our own darkness.
It is clear that our Lenten practices cannot be ‘private.’ This season of conversion is an invitation to first be reconciled with Christ and then to be Christ-like in our relationships with one another.
Today’s Psalm (51) gives us the starting point: “Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.” I have no trouble relating with one of the verses that says: “I acknowledge my offenses, and my sin is always before me.” I am grateful in knowing my sin, and even more grateful in knowing God’s infinite mercy, and I welcome the opportunity to receive his healing balm of forgiveness once again.
Who of us does not know how sin isolates us from God and from each other?
Who of us does not recall how freeing is the experience of sacramental reconciliation?
How many in our society today are isolated and waiting for a compassionate gaze, an invitation of inclusion, a word of forgiveness and restoration to the community of family, or parish, or neighborhood?
I was impressed by a local pastor recently who at Mass called a homeless man by name and welcomed him to the morning Mass. Lent is a call to recognize every person as another human being. Lent calls us to give alms, which is also an invitation to enter into relationship with those in need. Giving money to worthy causes is a good thing, but can we take the next step of personal engagement? When we give a homeless person a handout, can we also ask them their name and share a brief conversation? Provisioning material need is one thing, restoring another person’s dignity is quite another.
Heaven only knows how much our world is in need of healing. God desires to utilize this holy season of Lent to begin to rebuild relationships. Let us be reconciled to Christ and be agents of unity and reconciliation in the world around us.