There are moments – whole long strings of them, sometimes – when I feel completely inadequate to the things to which God has called me, is indeed calling me in the present. I feel inadequate both because I am, inherently, incapable of doing what He asks on my own, and because I seem to be an expert at kicking, screaming, resisting, and needing to be dragged, struggling, to the task. And when I’m not actively resisting, I am awfully good at ignoring (at worst) or failing to listen to (at best) what He wants from me.
Here in the second full week of Lent, I’m taking stock of what I said I would do to walk more closely with Jesus through this holy and penitential season. I’ve done what I said I would do in some areas, and I’ve lagged sadly in others. Fortunately, as my co-teacher pointed out to our 7th– and 8th-graders in their religious education class yesterday, Lent isn’t over, and we get to restart those commitments where we’ve fallen short.
I can honestly say that my commitment to fast – truly fast, taking only clear liquid all day until dinner time – one day each week has been of great benefit. Each time I start to feel really hungry creates an opportunity to reflect and pray and to offer my small discomforts to Jesus in prayer. Last Friday, in a moment of hunger pangs in the middle of the day, I thought, Six more hours until I eat. And then in the next breath of my heart, I thought, Jesus did not have that option during His Passion. My perspective changed.
The commitment to intentional prayer – specifically Lectio Divina and the Rosary – have not fared as well. I’ll count them as a work in progress. I’ve found myself asking, in my morning and evening prayers, for the grace to turn to God in prayer often throughout the day. And then I realized that my little “prayer alarms” – those hourly chimes on my phone with their accompanying prayers and scripture verses – had been mostly turned off to avoid distracting people when I was in a meeting or at church. I’ve turned them back on.
To be sure, I spend more time in prayer now than ever before in my life. What happens is that the more time I spend there, the more I want and need. I am beginning to see a pattern here….
My Lenten almsgiving is from the heart – a promise to spread kindness through at least one intentional act of kindness targeted at some specific person or persons each day. This is wide open and could take a lot of forms, and I’m learning that being very intentional about this takes some effort. Who knew? I actually need to go out and find people and be kind to them in a meaningful way, without even the tiniest hint that it’s somehow an obligation.
Right now, I can hear the question – perhaps because my own heart is asking it: When I publicize these Lenten resolutions via this blog, how am I not aligning with the Pharisees that Jesus called out for making their fasting, prayer, and almsgiving public in the interest of glorifying themselves?
All I can say is that this blog is meant as a way of sharing my own spiritual journey, and the ways in which I am seeking a deeper relationship with Jesus this Lent are part of that journey. I’m not looking for praise or glory; I’d love to say I don’t need those things, but the nearer truth is that I don’t deserve them. And if what I share speaks into even one single heart so that one single soul loves Jesus more, then it’s worthwhile.
Now, lest this rambling get any further off course, please allow me to share some random thoughts from the past few days of wandering in my spiritual garden. There, if it isn’t always spring, at least the promise of it waits behind every prayer.
I have often prayed, and continue to pray, that nothing about the Mass would become ordinary and rote to me – that by grace and the promptings of the Holy Spirit, I might always experience Mass as a time of wonder and renewal. This prayer has been answered, over time, in many different ways, most often in what I experience at the moment of Consecration. One of my most cherished memories is of the weekday Mass when, as I bowed my head for the words of Consecration, the voice in my mind said most urgently, “Look at Me!” I looked up as the priest was elevating the Consecrated Host, and thought, Here I am, looking directly at Jesus!
A few days ago, in that mystical and miraculous moment during an early morning Mass, I gazed at Him in the form of bread and wondered, How is it that something so amazing and truly earth-shaking is happening here, and yet it is so quiet? The Lord of heaven and earth has just made Himself present here! Angels surround Him, and in the presence of the Son, we also have the Father and the Holy Spirit! And yet, all I can really see is the bread and wine that He has made into Himself. They look the same, but I realize that they are profoundly changed – changed into Him as a way He can give Himself to us.
And it’s there, in that moment and thought, that I see it. Here I am, kneeling before Him; here I am, walking forward to receive Him; here I am, coming back to my place with Him, and He is there to feed me and thus to change me. No one around me, if they happen to notice me at all, will see the least outward change in me as a result of my having received Him. And yet I am profoundly changed, just as the Consecrated Host is profoundly changed.
My prayer, then, is that I may live in a way that makes this change – not the me part of it, but the Him part of it – evident to others. My prayer is that my smile will reflect always the joy of His presence in my life, that my actions will call to mind always the gentleness and mercy and love of His ministry through me, and that my life in total will be in all ways given over to letting Him shine on others through my openness to His love.
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