At Lent every year the familiar story draws the faithful into a period of resetting our spiritual compass for its true north. The death and resurrection of Jesus pervades prayers and practices for forty days of Lent.
While the psalms and readings of the liturgical season call upon the faithful to become penitents, there is much more than our own sins to reflect on in light of these events. God forgives our sins when we repent-and one expects that God both forgives and forgets. God is not an accountant keeping track of our offenses; Jesus says God welcomes the penitent, the lost sheep, rejoices like the woman who finds the lost coin. We are forgiven and loved. And there’s a next step.
What is expected of us? Here’s one way to look at it. The power of Jesus’ love, shown in what he suffered and in his death, vibrates through the ages, changing our hearts; and in his rising, he destroyed death for the whole human family. Having forgiven us, Jesus gives us his power. With that power we are invited to be so like him that our love for others sends out vibrations for the human family of our time with its many needs. Done in memory of his generous self-giving, our acts of penitence and reparation-giving up, giving of, fasting from, and praying for-carry our love to others, both those we may never see and those whom we name. And perhaps the most profound act of penitence in Lent and in a lifetime: forgiving those who have trespassed against us.
The new commandment Jesus gave us at the Last Supper, according to St. John’s account, is that we love one another as he has loved us. At Lenten time we intentionally link our small givings, in penitence and reparation, to that mighty power that Jesus set in motion to embrace all God’s family: embracing the friend with cancer, the victims of the tsunami in Japan, the hungry, and whoever is in need. We give ourselves to the works and prayers that reduce the multiple trials and sorrows of human life, and as the prayer for mercy at Mass calls them, the sins of the world. God’s mercy is ours to give.
This is our Lenten practice: to love as Jesus does. In all the ways Jesus does. To renew the face of the earth.
Bridget Puzon, O.S.U.
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