This past Tuesday, the Church celebrated the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. This feast, which commemorates the moment Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary to announce the plan of salvation God intended to bring forth, can seem a bit odd to celebrate during Lent. The Annunciation is a moment that we would usually associate with Christmas, as it introduces us to the official incarnation of God as Man. While March 25th is exactly 9 months before December 25th, I believe that celebrating the Annunciation during this time has more meaning than simply the significance of 9 months to December. In this post, I hope to share with you my thoughts on a few of the many beautiful features of this event in Christianity and how it pertains to our mission in the Liturgical season of Lent.
The Annunciation emphasizes both the importance of Mary and how the Annunciation brings the Incarnation of God into the realm of human history. I have noticed that people, when discussing this crucial event, typically compartmentalize these two aspects while forgetting their interconnectivity. I also find that this can result in one compartmentalizing their relationship with Mary and their relationship with God, failing to recognize how the two are woven together. I say this because I am certainly guilty as charged! Seeing the beautiful harmonization of the New Adam (Jesus) and the New Eve (Mary) can help us better understand the correct approach to bringing our hearts closer to God during Lent.
You might then ask how this interconnectivity between Mary and the Incarnation occurs. Yes, Mary did give birth to Jesus, and many people stop there. However, I believe the harmonization is more than the mere act of Mary giving birth. This is where the Annunciation comes into play, as Mary agreed to submit herself fully to God’s will. The nature in which such agreement is founded on remains an open question. With this, however, I have found that the best answer to this question (in the span of my short, and continuously developing spiritual journey) lies in the spirituality that is the source and foundation of the Catholic Apostolate Center. In a blog I wrote some while back, I talked about God as Infinite Love, and I reference this again because I am referring to a spirituality of collaboration, where the Love of God is a collaborative invitation to participate in His will, which subsequently leads to being one with His love. We walk on our journey together with God, and this connectedness is why such a harmonization between the role of Mary and the Incarnation of Christ exists.
The answer to how this harmony exists lies in the gift of free will. I mention free will because of it is important in the understanding of a collaborative relationship with God, one where we are free rather than forced to conform to His will. Another way of saying this is that God could have entered humanity, without our consent, into a new order where the original graces and gifts would be restored. However, God wanted us to love Him, and such love requires an act to freely choose Him while simultaneously rejecting something else (i.e. sin, worldly pleasures, and so forth). If God were to redeem humanity through the Incarnation of Christ, it would then be by human consent, in order that our dignity is maintained and we are ably to participate in this Infinite Love of God, and that God would offer the Incarnation (and therefore the opportunity to regain access to full participation in such Love) by means of collaboration with humanity. It is only through such collaboration that participation in the Love of God can occur.
This is where our Blessed Mother, Mary, enters into the conversation. In the Annunciation, Mary is asked by the Angel Gabriel if she would freely consent to God’s plan to take humanity out of the abyss and to let him be completely enraptured by God’s Love (See Luke 1:26-35). Her response was the greatest act of liberty the world has ever seen: “Be it done unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). This freedom is perfect because her Son was willed, and not merely accepted in any unforeseen or unpredictable way. There was no element of chance, but a desire of the Father to enact His will of salvation by means of collaboration. Mary, having full faith and love for God, essentially said “yes, I am willing to collaborate with Your will in order that I may participate in your Love.” Her willingness to collaborate is an act of harmonization, one that we cannot ignore in our lives of prayer and charity.
With this being noted, how does this pertain to our journey of faith during the Lenten Season? Like Mary, we are called by God to collaborate with His will in order that we may grow in holiness and be ravished by His Love. The Annunciation reminds us that we have this gift of freedom to participate in such collaboration. After all, it would not be collaboration if we were forced to participate! We are shown that we can choose God and reject the things that keep us away from Him. This choice is deeply rooted to the extent that God would offer such a choice pertaining to our very own salvation, the Incarnation of His very own Son. Fortunately, we have an example, a role model who perfected this very act of freedom. That role model is Mary, as she collaborated with God’s will. Because of such a harmonization between Mary and God’s plan, the same harmonization can occur with us and God. We can pursue this harmonization with God by asking for Mary’s intercession. She can then us respond to such an invitation by saying: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to Thy Word.”
Andrew St. Hilaire is the Assistant to the Director of the Catholic Apostolate Center
Lent is a time of reflecting on how to better ourselves in our relationships with our friends, our family, and our God, as well as a time to reach out to those less fortunate than us and show them the love of Christ. Most people probably do not think of this Lenten journey as a time of joy, but I do, for not only does Lent allow us to refocus ourselves on Christ, but it also calls us to share in the suffering of Christ.
During Lent we hear how Christ’s ministry unfolded and how people came to see him as the Son of God, our Savior and Redeemer. Christ’s journey was not easy. He endured pain and suffering for our sins in order that we might be reborn to new life through the sacrifice of his body and blood. St. Francis of Assisi wrote in “True and Perfect Joy” that the sick could be healed and the whole world could be evangelized, yet true joy comes in a mutual suffering with Christ on the cross. But how can suffering be joyful?
Here on earth, in this life, the greatest and most intimate experience with Christ comes from our participation in the Eucharist. However, by also sharing in Christ’s suffering our relationship with him grows even more intimately. Indeed, taking part in Christ’s suffering allows us to more deeply share in the mystical Body of Christ. St. Paul wrote in Colossians 1:24, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.” During Lent each of us is called to share in Christ’s suffering in a unique way, whether that be sacrificing our usual daily donut, praying a rosary each day, or taking time to serve meals to the less fortunate. We need to recognize that in these sacrifices we share in some small way in Christ’s suffering, and thus are brought infinitely closer to him. How can this not bring us joy?
Since Pope Francis recently released Evangelii Gaudium, “The Joy of the Gospel,” it seems prudent to also reflect on how we are called to live out his concept of joy this Lent. In the introduction of this exhortation, Pope Francis talks about rejoicing in the cross, “The Gospel, radiant with the glory of Christ’s cross, constantly invites us to rejoice” (Evangelii Gaudium, 5).
The joy of which Pope Francis speaks, joy coming from the Gospel, is a joy that radiates from our love for Christ and our willingness to serve Him and others. It is through our ability and desire to follow the Lord’s commandments and our attempt to imitate Christ’s relationship with the Father that we are able to share in this joy. There could not be a better message this Lent as we try to refocus our faith and to better ourselves before our Lord!
I have challenged myself this Lent to live out these two conceptions of joy each day: sharing in Christ’s suffering and my continued desire to serve Him. It is through each of these that we not only build up our own faith and discipline, but also have the ability to share it with others. We can bring Christ’s joy and peace to His people here on earth. Through this participation in Christ’s mission, we get a small glimpse of Christ’s infinite love for us. Pope Francis says it best as he reminds us of what joy should look like in our lives, “Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved” (Evangelii Gaudium, 6).
Nicholas Shields is a senior and the Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus at The Catholic University of America
Women in the ChurchRead Now
Have you ever wondered about women and their place in the Catholic Church? I have. When I was little, I wanted to be the Pope (before I decided my dream was to become President, of course). Only then did I discover that since I was a girl, I could not become the Pope. That infuriated me as a small child, and sparked my interest in learning more about my life’s vocation as a woman of faith. Only as I have grown older have I begun to learn how I can actively participate in my faith traditions, as a layperson and as a woman.
Women have a role in our faith. We are witnesses and called to be exemplary versions of ourselves. We are called by Christ to function in our Church using our own gifts, talents, and love. The example of women leaders in our Church shines through to us in the lives of many female saints and other women in our Church who used their femininity to do God’s will. We read about Mary Magdalene, Martha, and Mary who were friends and followers of Jesus and who were with him throughout his ministry on earth. Later in the 14th century we see St. Catherine of Siena, who helped bring the papacy back to Rome. St. Clare of Assisi founded the female religious order similar to Franciscans. St. Therese of Lisieux is a Doctor of the Church, thanks to Blessed Pope John Paul II. These women and countless others have made their mark on the Church in critical and defining ways, allowing other women to look up to them and see how to live out God’s love through actions and service. In Mulieris Dignitatem, a 1988 apostolic letter by Blessed Pope John Paul II, he says, “Holy women are the incarnation of the feminine ideal.” This tells us to follow the example of the holy women in our Church, who taught us all a great deal about the special place women hold.
The New Evangelization needs women to be examples of true womanhood. What is a true example of womanhood, you might ask? Who do we look to for guidance? Well, Mary, the Mother of God is a perfect place to begin. In the Blessed Mother, we see a sinless woman, courageous and steadfast in her faith, who said the ultimate “Yes” to God at a young age. In the face of adversity and rejection, she showed how strong her faith was by bearing the Son of God and then delivering her child in a stable. No simple feat! Throughout Jesus’ life, she was with him, both in person and in prayer. When he was lost and teaching in the temple, she worried like any mother would about her son, then pondered these things in her heart; at the Wedding of Cana, she knew when he needed a nudge to begin his ministry; at the foot of the cross, she wept for the life and humanity of her son. As a woman and a mother, we see Mary’s grace and strive to imitate her desire to do the will of God, unwavering in faith and holiness.
As true, confident, feminine examples of love and generosity, we need to know and understand Church teachings and desire to do more as laity in our Catholic faith. As individuals we are a part of the Body of Christ, with an important responsibility to love and with incredible opportunities at the end of our fingertips. Mulieris Dignitatem encourages us—women of faith—to deepen our own understanding about ourselves, and be a witness of faith. We must recognize that our vocation is to understand and teach the faith, to evangelize the world, to desire to grow ever more deeply in Christ’s love, to care for the poor and destitute, and even to answer the call to religious life. But, the most important of these things is to love unconditionally. As Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
In our faith today, we sometimes see people questioning where and how women should participate in our faith and its traditions. This is an issue that many on both sides of the spectrum feel strongly about. The New Evangelization is a way for all people who are members of the Body of Christ—especially women—to reconnect with God and to rekindle the desire to live our lives to their fullest potential.
Krissy Kirby is a Senior at The Catholic University of America and a Resident Minister through the Office of Campus Ministry.
Setting Relationships RightRead Now
Among Catholics who take the season of Lent seriously, I’ve noticed a number of different approaches. There are the subscribers to Lent as boot camp. Boot campers decide to fast not just from one food they love, but from most foods they love. Added to this, they decide to get up an hour earlier than normal to pray or go to Mass, and they are going to give money to anyone they meet who needs help. A second group makes one serious commitment and day by day spends a little more time thinking about God, remembers they are not eating fried foods and discovers the joy of crunchy vegetables, and starts collecting their change each day so as to make a contribution to a worthy group. A third group is pretty darn casual about the whole thing, happy that, over forty days, they may remember not to eat meat on a Friday or two, will get to confession, and will go all in for the campus ministry or parish hunger awareness campaign.
Many of us, me included, have a love-hate relationship with Lent. It can so easily become more of a contest than a season of prayer. Thomas Merton once remarked that his brothers, in wanting to outdo one another in the severity of their fasts, became a bunch of grouchy, miserable men. Far better, Thomas thought, to feast and give thanks to God for his abundance than to fast and make yourself and others miserable. How is that holy? Thomas wondered.
The ancient disciplines of prayer, fasting, almsgiving which define the season of Lent are about making right the three most important relationships in the life of a Christian, God, self and others. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read that “the interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1434). Rather than a contest with our best and worst selves, we are invited to think about what will make our relationship with God stronger. Where do we need to bring some balance into our lives so as to be healthier and what relationships are asking us to be more giving; emotionally, practically or monetarily?
I’ve learned from my own experience that Lent is most fruitful when I take some time to think about how I can deepen my relationship with God. What am I eating or drinking or doing (or maybe not doing) that is really not healthy or good for me? And where can I be more generous with the people who are part of my everyday life? Answering these questions opens up a number of practices that will make a difference over the course of forty days. My goal is to make these things a habit, not doing them for forty days and then be done, but rather to discover at the end of 40 days, they have become easier and have found a permanent place in my daily routine. If done well, I also am more aware of the depth and breadth of God’s love and mercy, because whether I am successful or not, I am saved. Jesus died for me so that my own failures and sins are not the end of my story.
Susan Timoney is the Assistant Secretary for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns for the Archdiocese of Washington and an adviser for the Catholic Apostolate Center
This post was originally written and posted on the St. Joseph's College Theology Blog, an affiliate of the Catholic Apostolate Center.
For more posts please visit the St. Joseph's College Theology Blog Page.
Habemus Papam!Read Now
It was a fairly normal March afternoon and I was at my computer working on my senior project, with a livestream of the Conclave playing in the background from Salt+Light TV. The anchors were discussing all the possibilities facing the Church, which of the “papabile” was the most likely candidate, and reflecting on the pontificate of Benedict XVI. Then I heard it, like a bell suddenly pealing out in the middle of the night:
“And it looks like we have black smoke again… Actually, it’s looking a little greyish… Wait a minute… White smoke! WE HAVE WHITE SMOKE! The Cardinals have elected the next Pope!!”
My heart leapt with excitement as I ran to the TV to watch coverage on the news. Every major network had had their eyes fixed on Rome since the College of Cardinals began arriving for Conclave. Every night the news would show video of that little smokestack on the roof of the Sistine Chapel. But this night was unlike any other night in recent memory. The white smoke, the “fumata bianca," had been spotted: the Church had Her new Vicar of Christ!
My thoughts quickly jumped back to my freshman year of high school, the year Pope Benedict XVI was elected. It was all new to me then, as John Paul II had been Pontiff for my entire life. This time was different: I understood what the Conclave was, how it worked, and what to expect when the new Pope was revealed to the world. When “Cardinal Protodeacon” Jean-Louis Tauran came to the loggia of St. Peter’s, it felt as though the whole world held its breath. Even the news anchors had gone silent until the words “Habemus Papam," which caused the crowd in the piazza to explode with cheers. Though there was confusion as to who this Cardinal Bergoglio was, it was quickly forgotten when his chosen name was announced: Francis, the first Pontiff ever to take the name of one of the world’s most well-known and beloved saints. Clearly, this new Pontiff had plans to set the bar high. St. Francis is, after all, most well-known for his simple lifestyle of meekness and poverty.
When he stepped out onto the balcony, Pope Francis did not disappoint. He looked overwhelmed and nervous, yet very much at peace with the decision of the Cardinals. He warmly greeted the crowd and then, to everyone’s shock, bowed before the whole world to ask each of us for our prayers. It was a poignant gesture, the likes of which the world rarely sees these days. I myself was nearly moved to tears, as this man, whose name I’d never even heard before, was bowing and asking me for my prayers as he took up the hardest job in the Church. It was a touching moment I’ll not soon forget.
In the year that has passed since then, Pope Francis has remained consistent in his message of evangelizing by authentic Christian living. Much like his namesake, who is often paraphrased as saying “preach the Gospel at all times; use words when necessary," Francis has spent his pontificate challenging Christians everywhere to practice what we preach, in both word and deed. Even in the face of hot-button political issues, he successfully reminds the world that each person and situation we meet is an opportunity to encounter Christ and share His message.
In our meme-driven world of social media, there have been many images created to try and encapsulate various aspects of Pope Francis’s message in both witty and moving ways. There is one, however, that paints a beautiful picture of continuity between Francis and his two predecessors:
It has been said that Pope Francis has a radical new approach to Catholicism. This is a rather naïve analysis; he is presenting a two thousand year old message in a simple and authentic manner. It’s not that Francis is telling the world anything particularly earth-shattering, it’s that he’s challenging the world without us realizing it. His demeanor is warm and inviting, but his message is a true call to action. It isn’t enough to simply profess faith; we must live it daily in order to meet and serve Christ Himself in others.
As we celebrate the first year of Pope Francis’s pontificate, we continue to pray for him and for the Church. May our work model the example set by the Holy Father:
“Let us learn from Christ how to pray, to forgive, to sow peace, and to be near those in need.” –Pope Francis, Feb 18, 2014
Viva il Papa!
Jay Schaefer is the Webinar Associate for the Catholic Apostolate Center
More than a Growling StomachRead Now
We have all been there – mid-morning on Ash Wednesday, awkwardly trying to hide the fact that our stomach is grumbling, wondering what actually constitutes as a “small meal”, and attempting to find it within ourselves to pray when all we can think about is those pangs of hunger. Or the classic Friday in Lent – where every meatless option seems unappetizing, and it is impossible to stop thinking about how badly we want chicken nuggets. Or that Lent when you decided to give up all sweets and you find yourself agonizing over whether or not a frosted donut really counts as a sweet . . . Why is this? Why is it that on days (or seasons for that matter) where we are called to fast or abstain from certain foods or other comforts, we feel conflicted about what the Church is calling us to do? There are any number of contributing factors (including the fact that chicken nuggets and donuts are delicious), but the heart of the matter is this: when we make sacrifices both big and small, we are often focused on what we are doing and forget the sacrifices of Lent are really about what is being done to us.
In her wisdom, the Church gives us Lent to take a step back - to simplify and to ultimately journey towards Christ in His suffering, death, and resurrection. During this season we are more aware of what we are giving up – of the sacrifices that we are making, and those things that we are temporarily missing out on enjoying. It can be all too easy to fall into the trap of grudgingly accepting what we have decided to sacrifice, instead of using it as an opportunity to better ourselves on the journey to Easter. Every time we make the mistake of thinking our own sacrifices about us, we are missing the point of this Lenten journey.
The reality of the world that we live in is that sacrifice is underrated – our friends and people around us may not understand why we would willingly give up earthly comforts for a Church season. But we know differently. Every small sacrifice we make is about becoming more aware of the sacrifice that Christ made for us 2000 years ago. Instead of sighing in frustration about what we cannot have every time our stomach growls, we should utter a prayer of gratitude for the chance to conform our lives more to the life of Christ.
We have the privilege to journey through these 40 days towards the cross of Good Friday. Although we all have to take up our own small crosses in the form of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, the most important thing we will do is walk confidently towards the cross of Christ. The beauty of the cross is that it is bigger than any one thing that we can do, and the cross has the power to continually renew us in our mission as baptized Christians. So although we may be temporarily missing our favorite treat or meat on Fridays, we can take hope that our sacrifices are not about how much we can do, they are about making ourselves more ready to celebrate the Easter Sunday that comes after the Good Friday.
Lauren Scharmer is a senior at the Catholic University of America studying Social Work & Theology and is active in both retreat and youth ministry in both the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. and Diocese of Arlington.
In light of the tragedy continuing in the Ukraine, we offer today a special blog post, a firsthand account of the fighting in Ukraine. This post is written by Fr. Viaczeslav Grynevich, a Pallottine father in Ukraine. We continue to offer our prayers to all those affected by these events.
"With the bitter price She fulfills Fatima’s promises on our land"
The first witness of the Maidan (Kiev):
Editor’s Note: The Maidan is the name for Independence Square, the main square in Kiev, Ukraine.
To be honest, I have absolutely no desire to write, but I want to do this, because I know that you're worried about us. I just returned from Kiev, the Maidan. The whole evening and night they brought the dead bodies there, we prayed, and I only now go out with a sense of shock.
I talked to one man who told me that "one night there was about ten attacks, although certainly more. There was not a quarter of an hour without any explosions. Suddenly I got sight of one dead and dozens injured. At one point it seemed it was the end, because people began to flee. There were gathered, however, maybe twenty men, and they began to fight with the militia. Those who fled returned and also began to fight and the militia began to withdraw." I don’t know how they could endure it all! I do not understand! After all, one can not withstand more than fifteen or twenty grenade explosions. One must bear off, remove up to wait until they cease to sicken the stomach, the headache is gone, hearing will return. And they stood…I can not call it differently, only as a miracle.
I attribute this miracle to Our Lady of Fatima, whose statue was on the stage in the Maidan since February 17. This figure comes from our Pallottine Sanctuary in Dowbysz and from the moment when it was brought, the militia began severe attacks there. Noise! Shots snipers! It was as if the devil is furious and scared. But the miracles of Mother's care were not lacking: the wind blew in the direction of the militia, pushing the poisonous smoke of burnt tires towards them. Almost all of the most radical people had on their necks or in their hands a rosary. It was the sign by which they were recognized from provocateurs (" tituszek") in the crowd. If “tituszki” wore on her hands white or blue ribbon to distinguish themselves, then those fighting for freedom had the rosary to distinguish them. Someone told me he had been saved during the "berkut’s" attack just because colleagues in the smoke they saw a white rosary and exclaimed, stretching out their hand: "He is one of us! ". Fr. Nicholas told another example of a man who went on a "berkut" shooting with acute ammunition, with a rosary and a candle in his hand. He went as the first, followed by the others. I can not imagine what the members of “berkut” felt holding in their hands Kalashnikovs and seeing a man walking on them with a rosary in his hand. The priest told me that he saw this man praying. When he finished they were talking about the attacks, the sins of Ukraine, the millions of abortions, that now they repent for them.
It is very difficult to realize what really happened. But the combination of the sense of triumph with wild pain over killed ones, gathered in one place on the Maidan, does not allow to return to the past life. It's hard to write, but thank you for all.
PS. This is only the first victory, but it occurred on Saturday (March 1). I am convinced that all the bullets fired adorn the crown of Our Lady, which with such bitter price fulfills its Fatima’s promises on our land.
Fr. Viaczeslav Grynevich SAC
Sharing our Lenten JourneyRead Now
This past weekend I was fortunate to attend my first Mid-Atlantic Congress for Pastoral Leadership in Baltimore, Maryland with the Catholic Apostolate Center team. It was the first conference of this kind that I had ever attended, and it was a wonderful experience for me. I spent the weekend with several other members of the Catholic Apostolate Center team, and we met so many people and organizations who are doing incredible work. It was great to connect with new people and reconnect with those whom we already work with. At MAC, the Catholic Apostolate Center sponsored several sessions with opportunities for collaboration and conversation among different groups. Being grounded in the spirituality of St. Vincent Pallotti, collaboration is something the Catholic Apostolate Center are especially focused on. In the few days after we returned home, I found myself wondering how the spirit of collaboration that I saw at MAC could also continue with me on my Lenten journey.
As I was sitting at Mass yesterday for Ash Wednesday, I was reflecting on my time this past weekend. I realized that I often think of the Lenten season as a time for personal growth and reflection, a time where I can examine my own faith. And it is true. Lent is a very individual experience. But as I sat in Church yesterday next to a close friend, I realized that Lent doesn’t just have to be an individual journey. People in our lives can provide valuable support and insight, and sharing our journey with others this Lent can expand on our personal growth. Leaving Mass, I had a conversation with a number of people about the fact that Ash Wednesday Mass is so well attended, despite it not being a holy day of obligation. We talked about the sense of unity we feel as we begin the Lenten season together, all marked with our ashes.
It is unusual to think of Lent as a time of collaboration, but Ash Wednesday is one of the days where our Catholicism is most outwardly on display. A non-Christian friend calls Ash Wednesday “Spot the Catholics Day,” and it makes me laugh, but also makes me feel proud to display my faith so openly. On Ash Wednesday, we walk around and see others with the marks of ashes on their forehead and feel a sense of solidarity with them, even without knowing them. We have this unspoken bond, and the breath of the Universal Church becomes very apparent. Collaboration is about working with others for a common goal. I believe that Ash Wednesday and the entire Lenten season is a reminder that our own struggles are what unite us as members of the community of faith.
During this Lenten season, I would challenge you to share your personal journey with others in your life: share your joys and also your struggles. Lent is a personal time, but the sense of peace we so often find is much better when shared with others in our lives. We are a community of believers, and Lent is a time to reflect and remind ourselves both of our personal commitment to our faith and to remind us of our place within this community.
Rebecca Ruesch is the Blog Editor for the Catholic Apostolate Center
The MirrorRead Now
My girlfriend watches Grey's Anatomy. I must admit, I am not a fan of the show, but I was in the room this week when she was watching an episode. Even though I was doing work, and I am almost incapable of multi-tasking, one of the characters caught my attention: the Cat Man. When he was a teenager, the Cat Man had many surgeries to turn his face and hands into forms that resembled today's common feline. He had done it because he thought it resembled who he was. He was trying to find meaning. Now, however, when he looked in the mirror, all he saw was shame and regret. He was alone, broken, and desperately seeking a way out.
As we begin this Lenten journey tomorrow, I find myself laughing at the use of such an extraordinary TV character as a segue into this most holy time of year. But Lent is a time when we, too, look into the mirror. We examine our actions, choices, and relationships. In today's culture, which requires success, money, vanity, and friends for self worth, the mirror can be a terrifying thing. So many look and see only brokenness from sin and the imperfections of this world. They see only hopelessness.
Yet hopelessness is the opposite of what this season is all about. This reflection, this time of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving is not meant to rub our faces in our brokenness. It is meant to show nothing less than the transformative and salvific power of the love of God. In Lent, we come before Christ again, and prepare our hearts to receive and experience the Paschal Mystery. And when we do that, when we turn back to the one who created us, we see the image of God in us.
Yes, Lent is when we look into the mirror. And since we are created in God's image, it is a time when we look and see if our lives reflect the sacred beauty that is in us. We ask how can we be more like Christ, more like the one who made us, more like ourselves. Because in the end, becoming more of who we are is what God wants us to do. God created each of us, and if we continually try to be ourselves to the fullest as Jesus showed with his life, ours will be filled with beauty, joy, and fulfillment. Look into the mirror. Do not be afraid. Look and see the beauty waiting to shine forth.
Be sure to check out the Catholic Apostolate Center's Lenten resources, by clicking here.
Brian Niemiec is the Curriculum Consultant for the Catholic Apostolate Center