Our journey is about to step into an extremely intense period of interior reflection; one that should prepare us to celebrate the Pascal Mystery and Easter more intimately. Lent is a time for interior conversion and healing, and the ways to do this are as many as there are people. But, maybe a good aid for our journey can be gleaned from the lesson of Christmas which is reinforced in today’s readings.
God came to us. He desired to be with us physically. Isaiah, today, proclaims the intensity of God’s relationship with us. ‘Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.’ Jesus, while speaking about our need to serve God also shows us the Father’s concern for each of us: ‘Are not you more important than they?’
I suggest to you that in our Lenten exercises we should make foremost the realization that God has chosen each of us personally. In hindsight, our understanding of the Old Testament reveals that God didn’t choose a people so much as he created a people from those individuals He called personally. This too is the Church; we are called by name. The Holy Father in late January spoke to this: ‘All of us, by virtue of our baptism, have been chosen by the Lord; we are all chosen. He has chosen us one by one. He has given us a name. And he looks upon us. There is dialogue, because this is the way the Lord loves.’ Our truest friend has found us and remains with us.
This realization can be a valuable key to a spiritually fruitful Lenten season. As we look within, as we take stock of our past year’s journey with the Lord, we need to view it through the eyes how we treated our companion, our friend; the one who sticks with us no matter what. How have treated this friend, were we a loving friend back to Him? We need to strip our selfishness from our mind’s eye and put ourselves in Christ’s place looking at us. Were we the best companion we could be? What hurt did we cause? Did we betray the love given us? What actions were the result of our own desires and not that of God? Did we step on our eternal companion for temporal reasons? How have we received our friend’s conversation with us – God’s Word, the eternal word? Were we, as Pope Francis likes to say ‘docile to the word of God’? Did we allow it to enter us and give us new strength, new direction; or did we fold it into our own desires thereby stripping the life from it? This type of interior inventory helps to reveal our true self – what God sees. Gives us new understanding of Christ’s agony in the Garden and what He saw when He climbed onto the cross. Makes personal this personal God.
This Lenten exercise, if done correctly, is one that is both extremely uncomfortable and supremely consoling. We are going to see things we don’t like, our self-hidden flaws will shine in the light of God’s friendship; but with that light comes the warmth of God’s love. Lets, you and I, step into Lent with docility so that we can grow in our love of He who loved us first and calls us by name.