Thursday after Ash Wednesday
I presume that many of you are like me when I am saying goodbye to someone. " It’s been so good to see you! Take care of yourself until I see you again." That would be followed up usually with a big hug. Nothing like a word of encouragement and a hug to seal it. It’s interesting to look back and realize that those "goodbyes" and hugs go with whatever age our loved ones are at: the healthy, the sick and homebound, the old and the young, the happy and the sorrowful.
Friendship is not frozen into a photo. Here we are the day after Ash Wednesday, at the beginning of our trip into the awesome season of Lent. There’s a feeling of seriousness in the air. Nothing wrong with that. Christmas is behind us. The baby Jesus has grown into a mature person. There is a seriousness about Jesus. His sincere concern about you and me is laid out very honestly: "If anyone wishes to come after me, he/she must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and come follow Me."
Friendships grow as the persons grow. At the baptism of Jesus we read, "…heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "you are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." His relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit is affirmed with the outpouring of love to Him as God Incarnate, the Redeemer, who was to be called "Jesus" because "he would save his people from their sins." It would take courage and lots of love as Jesus moved closer and closer to Jerusalem and crucifixion.
You and I are all at different moments in our lives. No need for shame as we flinch or gasp at what we are facing as we grasp our own cross in 2010. We are not alone. There is a need never to forget the precious reminder, "Greater love than this no one has but that he lay down his life for his friends." Can I gently remind you that Jesus has that love…and that…you are that friend that He is willing to lay down his life?"
You and I will have the opportunity to think about, reflect on, sit quietly with, perhaps being helped by holding a crucifix in our hands . Can you and I be open to hearing in our hearts those words of Jesus crucified, who says to you, "I love you. You are my friend. " This Lent could bring a deep, profound grace as we move along each day with realization, "Jesus loves me." Who knows what impact this will have. ..especially if we can respond, "And I love you, too."
Fr. Peter Berendt, C.P. is on the staff of Holy Name Passionist Retreat Center, Houston, Texas.