Lenten Reflections

WEEK 1

Resist the Temptation to Close Your Eyes  . . .  and Renew your Heart
God blessed most of us with the gift of sight.  We are able to take in all the miraculous wonders of life with our eyes. And yet, we sometimes take the ability to see for granted. I’m not talking about sight as in 20-20 vision, but the internal sight that challenges us to mirror Christ. 

Closing our eyes is all around us.  We are busy people living in a busy world with a temptation to get caught up in a secular spin. We can be tempted to close our eyes to the pain of a friend and think nothing of being stingy with our compassion. We can be tempted to close our eyes to the suffering in the world and let someone else be the Good Samaritan. We can be tempted to close our eyes to the vacant lines on a volunteer sign-up sheet and simply walk away.

We can ignore the grocery cart in the church and pass the obligation of feeding the hungry on to the rest.  We can be tempted to close our eyes to God’s hand trying to catch us when we stray and instead claim that God doesn’t care.  We can be tempted to close our eyes to make it convenient for ourselves, so that we feel good.  We can be tempted to close our eyes to the needs of the homeless, the elderly, to those lost in their faith and instead tighten up in a bubble of selfishness. 

How about you?  Will your eyes be open or closed this Lent? It really all comes down to this- when your life has been lived out and you close your eyes for the last time, what will Jesus see in you?

WEEK 2

Resist the Temptation to Close Your Heart  . . . and Renew Your Heart
Our heart beats from the moment of conception and pumps about 100,000 times a day. It has become a symbol for our very selves. Our heart aches when we feel another’s pain. Our heart leaps in joy when we look into the eyes of a newborn, when we feel that first romantic love, and yes, when we sense God’s true presence within us. Our heart is only about the size of our fist but it can hold an immeasurable amount of love. And it always has room for more. Our heart is our lifeline.  And yet, sometimes we are tempted to close our heart, barricade it from loving.

A friend recounts an incident where he was tempted to close his heart and fell prey to that temptation.  “I had hired a home remodeling contractor to do some rather extensive work in our home. The contractor suddenly stopped his work in the middle of the project and walked away, taking with him thousands of dollars. I felt that our family had been robbed. It actually cost our family even more thousands to fix and complete the project. Those extra thousands came directly from our family's education fund. My heart closed and all I could wish for and think about was vengeance! This caused me much pain within my mind, body, and soul for weeks. My heart was angry. My heart was closed. After confessing and consulting, I was directed to pray for this individual, even though I did not want to. After forcing myself to pray daily for what I recall to be almost a month, God lifted those terrible feelings, taking a giant weight from my shoulders. Miraculously my heart opened again. Wow! I cried, and then I was actually able to earnestly pray for this individual. For the first time I had genuine concern for his soul and well-being.”

Have you ever been lied to? Has someone’s words hurt you? Has a "forever" relationship fallen apart? Has  losing a loved one meant losing a piece of your heart also?  We all have had tugs, pulls on our heart and have been tempted to close it because of the immense pain. The heart of Jesus was a human heart just like ours. Even in his darkest hours, he showed his love and forgiveness to those who persecuted him. His Sacred Heart loves us unconditionally and always. Through the desert of lent to the foot of the cross to the empty tomb it is an open heart that will burst with Easter joy!

WEEK 3

Resist the Temptation to Close Your Mind . . .  And Renew Your Heart
Why has it become so difficult to even consider changing our minds about important issues? Increasingly, the willingness to change one's position has been misread as a mark of weakness rather than a product of    attentive listening and careful discernment.

We’d all like to claim that we have an open mind, but not so. As we encounter life with its varied      opinions, ideas, and behaviors, we experience the temptation to close our minds to that which is not our    general way of thinking or behaving. This close-minded approach greatly reduces our ability to grow in   wisdom. It stunts our potential. This is particularly true when it comes to our faith. 

The temptation to close our mind is to stand on a conviction that I have no need to learn anything more about my faith or any particular issue.  I know all that I need to know. The mindset that the “old way of doing things” is just fine can be crippling and forces us to become friends with the fear to change. Matthew Kelly so simply puts it that if we are to strive to be the best person we can be, we must resist the temptation to close our minds.

Lent calls each of us to fast, to do penance, to take on acts of charity. We are called to walk with Jesus on the road to Calvary and beyond. Is your mind open to this invitation?  And will you stop on the road to help Jesus like Simon did? Will your mind be open to rush the crowd and wipe Jesus’ face like Veronica did? Will you have the mindset to stand at the foot of the cross and watch and wait?  Will you stop at the empty tomb in awe and embrace the Easter miracle or will you take the miracle for granted and keep on walking. And where will your road lead? Keep your mind open because you just never know who may be walking beside you!

WEEK 4

Resist the Temptation to Close Your Ears . . . and Renew Your Heart
Our ears- what an amazing part of our body’s guidance system. The major task of the ear is to detect,     transmit and transduce sound.   Most of us have been blessed with the ability to hear and can’t imagine a world void of sound- no music, no voices- no cries- no laughter. Even though precious, sometimes we can be tempted to close our ears. Sometimes we can be tempted to hear but not listen.

Who and what are we listening to for the answers to our questions? Some people may turn to the Internet or books for answers. Questions of great personal importance are not always found from human research.  Do we hear God’s voice and do we listen to what he is telling us? Are we familiar with his voice? Recognizing the way that God speaks to us is key. Reading scripture in solitude is a great way to hear his voice. God can lead our conversations and actions. We can hear his voice and message through those around us- our parents, teachers and Church leaders. He is, after all, the “Wonderful Counselor.”

Take a minute to ponder- are you listening to the needs and plights of others? Do you hear the cries of the poor, the screams of the unborn waiting to be aborted?  Do you hear the desperation of those lost in their faith or the tears of those grieving?  Do we close our ears to the need for volunteers in our ministries, our committees, our Faith Formation programs? We can get so busy with our everyday lives and our own  problems that we can be tempted to close our ears to those reaching out to us. God understands, but he wants us to be his instruments to comfort and console. Listen to his call for the smallest act of kindness can affect a life. Just listen, that’s all, just listen. “God will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.” (Hebrews 6:10)

There is much to hear on the way to Calvary. Keep your ears open to the whispers of our dying Lord. Listen to his words of forgiveness. Hear the sound of the silent thunder of Good Friday. And as you journey to the tomb on Easter morning, be still so that you can hear the angel proclaim “He is not here. He is Risen!”

 Week 5

Resist the Temptation to Close Your Arms . . .  and Renew Your Heart
At one time or another each of us may have unconsciously kept our arms closed while listening to someone in conversation or perhaps kept our arms tightly folded in an unconscious defense against sharing. Maybe we are just shy or could we be too busy to pay attention? Some may say that this is a sign of close-mindedness or an unwillingness to listen to the needs of others. 

There are opportunities all around us to open our arms to someone. It may be a simple gesture of giving a hug to someone whose face says, “I really need a hug.”  We generally can tell when someone we know is feeling lonely or maybe even unloved at the time.  Don’t pass up the    invitation to put your arms around them or embrace them.  Be kind– open the door for an     elderly friend, offer the strength of your arms to someone who is struggling with something as simple as loading groceries in the car.  Help with Vacation Bible School where our hands and arms are so needed for our youth. Use your arms to comfort our patients in the nursing homes. Let your hands offer them the precious Eucharist. Volunteer your hands and your arms to help prepare our church for the Holy Triduum. Our beautiful hands and arms made by God are to be used for good works.  God delights when we use them to help others. How beautiful to have tired hands and arms at the end of the day. 

Jesus’ arms tenderly hugged his mother. His arms comforted the sick. Jesus hugged the sinner. He embraced the leper.  Jesus reached out to hold the children. His arms carried the cross to Calvary. His beaten arms were stretched out and nailed to the cross, all to save us. Open your arms wide, wide enough to embrace the miracle of Easter.

 Week 6

Resist The Temptation to Close Your Mouth . . . and Renew Your Heart

“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”  “Keep your mouth shut and stay out of trouble.”  “Bite your tongue!”  “Better left unsaid.”  Many of us grew up hearing these phrases.  Saying too much too often may have been a temptation for many of us, one that we have been cautioned against. 

And yet, is there not also the temptation to close our mouths when it would be better to speak up?  Why?        Because we don’t want to rock the boat?  Because we’re afraid of what others may think of us?  Because our opinion goes against the mainstream?  Ecclesiastes 3:7 tells us there is a time to be silent and a time to speak.  As Christians and as Catholics, it is important for us to be aware of these times and speak up accordingly. 

What are some of the times when we should not close our mouths?  How about when the group gets together for coffee and to exchange the latest gossip?  Do we open our mouths to say that we’d rather talk about an uplifting experience than ruin a reputation?  Or how about when a good friend expresses the belief that it is a pregnant woman’s right to choose if she wants to abort her child?  Or that terminally ill people should be able to end their lives?  Or that violent criminals should all be executed?  Do we speak up about our belief in the sanctity of all human life?  Do we speak up when someone uses a racial slur or when we witness an abuse?  There are many instances when we may be called upon to speak out against injustices. We need to pray to know the difference. 

Let’s resist the temptation to be silent when we could open our mouths to do good.  Let’s open our mouths with a smile and a hello to brighten someone’s day, to say thank you, you’re wonderful, I appreciate you, I love you, I’m sorry. And finally, let’s resist the temptation to close our mouths but open them joyfully in song and praise of our risen Lord Jesus Christ.  Let us spread the Good News!  We are an Easter people, and as Easter people we must live as active witnesses to our faith.  “Go into the world and preach the Gospel to all creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” (Mark 16:15-16)  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

 Easter Sunday

 I’m so excited, I just can’t sleep!  That very familiar quote from those anticipating a trip to Disney certainly applies to the eve of the Lord’s Resurrection. Unlike the disciples, we have an edge on the outcome of Jesus’ death. There are no doubting Thomases among us. We count on what the Lord has promised us. We already know that he WILL rise again and free us from our sins.  How can we be sure?  Because we trust in his word. We trust that the stone will be rolled away and the tomb will be empty. We trust because he loves us. We trust because we love him. 

All through this Lenten season we have been encouraged to resist temptation so that our hearts can be renewed. We have opened our eyes to see the goodness around us. We’ve opened our ears to hear his words of forgiveness. We’ve opened our arms to embrace one another. We’ve opened our hearts to love and be loved. We’ve opened our minds to the miracle surrounding us. We’ve opened our mouths to proclaim here and now that “He is not here. He is Risen.” We are excited to be Easter people!  Go and spread the Good News– Alleluia, Alleluia!