February 16, 2018
The following is my weekly letter to the Bishop Chatard parent community:
The Lenten season has begun. Lent does not conjure up the same excitement and joy as celebratory seasons such as Easter and Christmas. Instead it is viewed as a bit sobering, perhaps even gloomy – ashes, penance, sacrifice, etc.
I have had opportunities in the past to hear different priests share refreshing perspectives on Lent. Rather than doom and gloom, Lent was presented as an opportunity for introspection, considering ways to become a better version of yourself. This is of course challenging, but it should be seen as a positive experience, rather than as a preoccupation with your own unworthiness.
Fr. Jim Farrell, my pastor, referred to the six weeks of Lent as a time of conversion. As our Lenten sacrifice, he suggested an alternative to giving up material items such as food, television, or soft drinks. Instead, why not consider working on some of the things that keep us separated from others and from God? Perhaps you get angry easily. Maybe you are slow to offer forgiveness or compassion. Have you convinced yourself that you do not have time for prayer? Do you consider the poor and disenfranchised to be someone else’s problem?
Friend and former co-worker, Fr. Joshua Janko, echoed these thoughts, referring to Lent as a time to “smooth off our rough edges.”
Bishop Gettelfinger, retired Bishop of the Evansville Diocese, once shared his view of Lent as a time of self-reflection. He suggested that we ask ourselves three questions: Who am I? What am I doing here? and Where am I going?
Maybe you feel pretty good about yourself and you do not see this activity as challenging at all. But what if Jesus were standing in front of you and the two of you locked eyes? Now how difficult would those three questions be?
Consider the Gospel story of the rich young man. He asked Jesus what he could do to gain eternal life. Jesus told him he needed to follow the commandments. The encouraged young man assured Jesus that he had indeed done that. Then Jesus told him “to sell all of your belongings and give the money to the poor, and then return and follow me.” The man went away sad. What God asks of us can be challenging.
I pray that your Lenten season allows you an opportunity for conversion. May you lock eyes with Jesus, consider what separates you from others and from Him, smooth off your rough edges, and then return and follow Him.