Lenten Growth: Beyond the Ordinary
Our Lenten journey continues…and today’s Scriptures offer insights into the growth that is part and parcel of Lent’s encouragement of renewed prayer, penance, and almsgiving / service.
Our selection from Deuteronomy highlights Moses’ words of encouragement to the people of his day – and us: walk in God’s ways, observe God’s commandments, listen to God’s voice. Moses reminds us that God loves us as His sacred people, with special dignity. We’re encouraged to foster this special “covenant” dignity / relationship in our every thought, word, and deed. Simple! And yet a challenge.
The Gospel selection from Matthew 5 relates Jesus challenging us to grow beyond the “minimum” standard of effort: to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. Jesus even spells out some of what that means, what growth is entailed: …love our enemies…pray for those who persecute us…greet everyone…be perfect! As we continue our Lenten Gospel pondering, we see Jesus backing up his words with his deeds…to the ultimate gift of Himself in love as he dies upon the Cross. For we 21st Century Christians, that’s a tall challenge! And with God’s grace this Lent…it’s doable!
These days of Lent encourage us to grow in love, as individuals and as the Church. Jesus invites us to grow beyond the fears and pessimism and selfishness that limit our love today – to see and love as God sees and loves each of us, sisters and brothers in God’s family. As Jesus notes, the sun shines on the whole world, and the rain falls on the just and the unjust; no part of creation is excluded from God’s love. Our love is to be all-inclusive. May our focused Lenten experiences of prayer, penance, and almsgiving / service encourage abundant growth in our love of God, neighbor, and ourselves!
A prayer from fellow Passionist, Fr. Victor Hoagland CP, guides us:
Lord, teach me the love you call me to,
The love sun-like, shining on all,
The love rain-like, falling on any ground,
Looking for no response or return.
Show me the love in the great word you spoke,
The dark wood of your cross.
I learn love slowly, Lord…teach me.
Fr. John Schork, C.P. serves as the Province Vocation Director and also as Local Superior of the Passionist Community of Holy Name in Houston, Texas.