A Time to Give Up Things or a Time to Explore Things
There are many ways to begin the Lenten Season. Traditionally, many people think that Lent is a time to give up things, e.g. cigarettes, candy, cake etc. Fasting and Abstaining from certain foods is indeed very noble and not very easy to do. In fact, it takes a lot of courage to “give up”. On Ash Wednesday, there is a passage from the Prophet Joel that says in part: “Blow the trumpet in Zion! Proclaim a fast, call an assembly; Gather the people, notify the congregation; assemble the elders, gather the children and the infants at the breast; … ‘Spare, O Lord, your people, and make a reproach, with the nations ruling over them! Why should they say among the peoples, Where is their God?”(Joel 2:12 – 18)
This passage sets the stage for the faithful Christians to not only fast but also to reflect – to ask questions like “Where is their God?” Reflection on one’s personal life is critical for growth and the Lenten season offers to those who wish, an opportunity to think about the Scriptures, wonder about the life of the Lord, wonder about the Lord’s followers, and wonder about the state of the world that the Lord lived in and the world in which we live. How are things going in the family? How have the relationships I am in developed from the last Lenten season? When I give up things, what reason did I have to give them up? Are these different things from last Lent? What is my relationship with the Lord like this year and how different from last year? We can reflect on these questions and many, many more. Each week there are different themes that can help us to grow. Here are some thoughts:
• Week One: Luke 4: 1-13: how do I deal with the many temptations in my life?
• Week Two: Luke 9: 28b – 36: how has the Lord revealed Himself to me and to my family?
• Week Three: Luke 13: 1-9: in a troubled world, how can we go beyond suffering to see the love and justice of the Lord?
• Week Four: John 4: 5 – 42: how do we experience the Lord in today’s world? How do we heal, forgive, act compassionately, and love our enemies?
• Week Five: 2 Corinthians 5: 17 – 21: how do we serve as ambassadors of the Lord in our daily lives?
• Week Six: Luke 19: 28 – 40: how do we welcome Jesus into our homes and the homes of our neighbors?
• Week Seven: John 13: 1 – 15: by sharing His Life and Death, our earth was to be a place of kindness, forgiveness, helping, openness – is it?
These passages can give us food for thought and might lead us to a second possible way to approach the Lenten Season. Perhaps, we can see Lent not as much a giving up as much as an opportunity to explore things. What does this mean? The Congregation of St. Joseph and the Associate (lay members) of the Congregation make a statement that goes like this – it is a consensus statement:
Stimulated by the Holy Spirit of Love and receptive to the Spirit’s inspirations, the Sister of St. Joseph and Associate moves always toward profound love of God and love of neighbor without distinction … she/he works in order to achieve unity both of neighbor with neighbor and neighbor with God… in humility – (and) in sincere charity.
Lent is a time to act and reflect on our actions. It is a time to remember and to renew our commitment to change the world in which we live. Sometimes it is by specific actions, working in our community, helping those who are sick, dying, or learning to live life more fully or sometimes it is by raising consciousness of the issues of the Earth – ecology, recycling, tilling the earth. It can be educating around the issues of Global Warming, changes on the globe, care for the earth and all of its inhabitants. Sometimes it is educating on specific issues such as: understanding the issues of human trafficking, care and sensitivity for the aging, concern for those who are on death row unjustly, equal rights, eradicating the injustices born out of discrimination and insensitivity those of difference from us.
Lent is a time to learn how such leaders as Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, Mary, Joseph, Mary of Magdela, Rebecca, and Ruth made a difference. It is also a time to see how modern leaders such as Thea Bowman, Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Thomas Merton, Martin Luther King, Teilhard de Chardin, Ghandi, Desmond Tutu, Dorothy Day, Pope John XXIII, John Cardinal Newman, Damien, Kateri Tekakwitha, and many, many others led the way to revolutionary changes on our planet.
Lent is a great time to learn from their lives and their leadership. It can also be a time to seek actions that can make the world a better place to live in. We can all make a difference – Lent can be a time to learn how to get involved – to learn from the leaders how to exercise our leadership at home and in our communities. We can make a difference.
We are committed to become a group of women and men for the great love and service of our neighbor – all of our neighbors. We encourage you to reflect on this during Lent. We pray during this Lent to hear in our lives the words from the Gospel of John 17: 21 Father may they all be one as you are in me and I in you, so that the world may truly believe that you have sent me. We pray for a peace-filled, thought-filled and spiritual Lent. We can give up or we can explore!
Robert Labadie Funaro MA, LLP, Ed.D
Associate Member of the Congregation of St. Joseph