Now is the time to say to Jesus: “… in a thousand ways I have shunned your love,
yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord,
take me once more into your redeeming embrace.” (The Joy of the Gospel)
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
The words above are from the opening page of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel. Succinctly, Pope Francis sums up the human condition and the sure conviction of God’s relentless love for us: “Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace.”
Lent is a great gift of the Church to us. It is not a time to beat ourselves up, but the opportunity to open our hearts again to the great love and desire God has for us to find our way home to God, to one another, and to our own heart-of-hearts. It’s a time to re-set our lives from our way to God’s way. While some years we may simply need a minor course correction, there are also those years when we may stand in need of a pretty serious overhaul and recalibration.
God knows and loves us, and has a long-suffering history with us, going back to the Garden of Eden. God is familiar with our fragility, our infidelity, the mayhem and pandemonium of which our hearts are so capable, and the consequent harm this is to our relationships. To help us turn from our ways and again toward God, the Lenten gospels give us the examples and words of Jesus – – – the familiar stories of those who were touched by Jesus. In these stories we also meet Jesus who touches us, gives us eyes to see and ears to hear, unbinds us from all that is unloving in our lives, and sends us out to do as he did.
A key to Lent is found in the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus, proclaimed during the second Sunday of Lent, and revealing for us Jesus’ true identity. That voice, those words, from a “bright cloud”, “This is my beloved Son … listen to him” (Mt. 17:5) are at the heart of our Lenten spirituality. God’s instruction to “listen to him”, to follow and to conform ourselves to him, moves us to our own truest identity in imitation of him.
John Baptist de La Salle enjoined upon his early followers, “Since you are ambassadors and ministers of Jesus Christ in the work that you do, you must act as representing Jesus Christ Himself.” (Med 3.2).
Perhaps it all comes down to this: “What would Jesus do?” This simple question so popular among young Christians back in the nineties still gets to the heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus today. It has the power to remind us of who we are becoming when we meet Jesus each day in thought and prayer. As simple as it seems… this may be the beating heart of our faith and the blessed assurance that we are becoming “the living memory of his love.” (The Rule of the Brothers, 2015, art. 23)
Live Jesus in our hearts!
Dennis Malloy, FSC