Monday, February 15, 2016

Seven Insights about "Verbalizing" Lent
If we thought of Lent as being more like a verb than a noun, what would it look like "to lean into Lent" or "to do Lent"? Starting with the source and summit of the season Himself, here are seven pieces of advice which might help us "to Lent" more meaningfully this year than ever before:
  1. Jesus of Nazareth: "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Lk 9:23). Authentic Christian discipleship is a far cry from the inane illogic of world ("God wants me to feel happy; I think that doing X will make me feel happy; therefore, God wants me to do X..."). Jesus wants us to see and love our crosses as much as he did, since they are the path to doing the will of the Father; he wants us to realize that when we take them up daily, he does most of the heavy lifting for us.
  2. Pope Francis: "I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day" (EG, n. 3). I love the daring invitation to have "at least an openness"!  However we "do Lent," it should better dispose us to noticing and naming these daily encounters with the Lord who is always walking with us.
  3. My Grandmother (and yours?!): "Offer it up!" Redemptive suffering may seem too counter cultural to deal with, given a world where we are tempted to eliminate anything marked by pain or inconvenience. But Grandma's timeless wisdom makes sense for anyone who has ever done something difficult in the name of a loved one, or on behalf of those enduring some hardship.

  4. St. Paul: "I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me" (Gal 2:20). Holiness looks like something--that is, dying to self/ego. It also looks like Someone--namely, Christ--who makes us the most perfect versions of ourselves, to the extent that we let him live and act through us.
  5. Hans Urs von Balthasar: "We do not repent in order to be rewarded by God, rather, we do it as a simple, grateful following of Christ and because we see clearly that the world in which we live cannot be profoundly helped in any other way than by our repentance" (Light of the Word). Just as Chesterton once quipped that the problem with the Church is me, so Balthasar suggests that the problem with the world is my own lack of repentance.
  6. St. John Paul II: "Totus Tuus!"  His papal motto, "Totally Yours," invites us to give our hearts away as Jesus instructed--to Mary, his Mother and ours. Jesus wants us to "Behold, your Mother," so we might take her into our home from this very hour (Jn 19:27).  To Jesus, through Mary, is the way "to Lent."
  7.  Matthew Kelly: "We all need a fresh start." Jesus is the ultimate Second Chance, the one and only New Beginning. The key to this fresh start is engaging the "Jesus Question," and responding to the Lord's personal question to each of us, "Who do you say that I am?"
Let's Lent--fasting, praying, and giving alms--like the first Christians, so we might make this the Best Lent Ever!