By Sister Patty Harvat, OP
Have you ever had the experience of unexpectedly meeting someone that you hadn’t seen in years? They say, “I think I know you!” and you say, “Really?”
During this season of Lent, God says to us, “I think I know you.” and “Return to me with all your heart.” (Joel 2:12)
Jesus looks at us deeply and with such longing and says, “I’d love to catch up with you. Got some time?”
This is the acceptable time; the acceptable time to deepen our experience of God and of our inmost selves. It is the time to allow God to help us to come to Easter in even deeper relationship than when Lent started. All of us enter into Lent acknowledging and accepting who we are while preparing to become more, because that is what God empowers us to be: MORE.
To become more. Was that what the Father was asking of his son in the Garden of Gethsemane? “My soul is sorrowful unto death.” God, it’s been a lonely year: transition, health problems, friends and family members dying, lack of civility in our society, family issues. What is the MORE God asks of us?
Listen to Jesus say to you each day, “I think I know you.” In his January 10, 2018, general audience, Pope Francis said, “Silence is not confined to the absence of words, but rather to preparing oneself to listen to other voices: the one in our heart and, above all, the voice of the Holy Spirit.”
A variety of prayer experiences will provide us with different ways to respond to Jesus: the silent contemplative prayer, the Stations of the Cross, the various liturgies and expressions of spirituality. Journal and observe how you were with God or how you weren’t. Record what you notice.
This is the acceptable time to return to God with all your heart. And to say to God, “Yes, you do know me and I have come to know you in a new and deeper way.”
Can a forest help you discern? Reflecting on this “Season of Creation” (September 1 – October 4) that Pope Francis has asked us to celebrate has me thinking of the perspective that nature can give us. Whenever I take time to walk in nature, I am in awe of all that is going on around me. I become aware of all the life in plants, insects, and various creatures, all oblivious to my existence. Walking a nature trail always seems to give me a helpful perspective: all this life goes on whether I am here or not. The energy and vibrancy of God’s creation is so vast, yet I am often not conscious of it.
I come away from my walk in the woods reminded that the world and all creation are so immense and that I am so small. Not that I don’t matter. To the Creator of the universe, we all matter. But I am a part of something so much bigger that I can’t fully grasp. That awareness brings me a sense of both awe and peace. My struggles matter, but they are just one part of a vast universe. I can go forward a little more calmly and make a humble decision, trusting in the God who created all.
Gaze at something in nature today, even a weed breaking through concrete, and see what message it has for you.
Several years ago, I was at a meeting that had several different religious traditions represented. People were invited to conduct a prayer service that would help the others learn about that faith. A Catholic Deacon decided to do a foot washing service.
I can still remember the silence, the sense of holiness, and the tears gently running down the cheeks of those who had never experienced this ritual before – they saw this man slowly pore water over their feet, cup the water and use it to bathe them, softly dry their feet, and end by giving a kiss to each foot.
This gesture requires trust and vulnerability on the part of the recipient and generosity and care on the part of the giver. We think of Pope Francis washing the feet of inmates. I recall a friend who used to wash feet at a homeless shelter. It is an intimate moment. It shows in a visceral way how Christ asks us to love one another – both in the giving and in the receiving.
In a way, the paths we choose, in our relationships and in our ministries, are a response to the question: “Whose feet will you wash?” What is your life’s response to this question?
Pope Francis spoke movingly at the closing Mass of the Year of consecrated life on February 2:
“Consecrated men and women are called first and foremost to be men and women of encounter. Vocation, in fact, is not motivated by a project that has been planned ‘at the drawing table’, but by the grace of the Lord who comes to us through a life-changing encounter. Those who really meet Jesus cannot stay the same as before. He is the novelty that makes all things new.”
Have you encountered Christ? How has that encounter called you? Changed you? It’s not a one time event. As people of faith, we keep encountering Christ and, as with any intimate relationship, it grows deeper and matures over time.
Sometimes this relationship asks a lot of us, but we can respond out of the strength our encounters have given us. Pope Francis speaks of those who have faced these challenges: “They did not stop before the obstacles and misunderstandings of others, because they kept the wonder of their encounter with Christ in their hearts.”
“The Spirit of God has filled the universe with possibilities and therefore, from the very heart of things, something new can always emerge.” Pope Francis.
Pope Francis accomplishes the challenging task of raising both our awareness of how serious the problems of our world are and, at the same time, giving us hope. In his marvelous encyclical, Laudato Si, On Care for Our Common Home, he shows how care of creation, care of each other and care of ourselves are all interwoven. The above quote is meant to give us hope that we can find a new way forward that will enable us to be truly good stewards.
The quote can also speak to each of us in our struggles. Sometimes we think too small or limit ourselves more than we need to. Pope Francis calls on us to recognize the infinite newness of God, whose creation is still unfolding. We are part of that creation, and we too are in an act of becoming. What is the “new” that God is calling forth from you?
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Get out your bell-bottoms and platform shoes, because DISCO is here!
Okay, so it's a little less dancing, a little more talking... Sisters Lorraine Réaume, OP, and Sara Fairbanks, OP, have a new video series called DISCO (Discernment Conversations): Dancing with the questions of life!