Lent is an annual opportunity to recommit our life as a journey toward God. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the penitential practices to begin and maintain this journey.
Last week, we talked about fasting, which helps us overcome many temptations of the world. This week I want to talk about prayer, which helps us leave the road of self-righteousness and follow Christ in our life’s journey.
Christ gives us the same advice you might give to a misbehaving child: go to your room and close the door!
“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” Matthew 6:5-6
We must turn inward to find God, our guide and our goal. All of us need to prayerfully become obedient instruments of God to allow His loving mercy to encourage us to go out into the world to heal and to transform. Perhaps it’s ironic that we make a U-turn inward before we head out into the world to love and serve others.
When we move beyond ourselves, we find those in need; we find the poor of body, mind and spirit; we find the disenfranchised and those on the margins of society. Look no further than the Incarnation or Jesus’s teaching in Matthew 25 (specifically, verses 31-46) for confirmation that Christ prefers that we move beyond ourselves and towards those at the bottom of the org chart…
- Christ has a lot of friends in low places.
- He likes the silent and vulnerable womb, and the senior center.
- The prison, the refugee camp and the homeless shelter are His neighborhoods.
And He invites us there not only for their sake—and how they need our help—but also because they help us find Him and find ourselves. You see…
- A prison visit convinces us that we have much more in common with the prisoners than our self-reliance ever allowed us to consider.
- Chatting with a refugee family reminds us how dangerous life can quickly become.
- Making and serving dinner for the homeless at Christ House—as nearly a hundred parishioners do every month—is a reminder of how fragile our sense of security really is.
At the 2013 Vigil of Pentecost, Pope Francis said, “How often is Jesus inside and knocking at the door to be let out? … In this stepping out we must be ready for an encounter with others. Why? because faith is an encounter with Jesus and we must do what Jesus does, encounter others … If we step outside ourselves we find poverty … We must become courageous Christians and go in search of the people… who are the flesh of Christ.”
Lent is a time to turn toward God and away from our self-will; to discover in prayer, His will; and through His grace to help us get back on track toward service to Him and our abandoned neighbor. Through the grace of our encounter with Christ, we are able to bring his love to our encounters with our neighbor.
As Dante said, “In His will, our peace.”
During this season of Lent, Art Bennett, Catholic Charities President and CEO, is sharing his weekly reflections on how the poor can bring us closer to Christ. Art has been President of Catholic Charities since 2010; he is also a licensed marriage and family therapists and has published four books with his wife Laraine.
If you would like to cross the bridge to help and to enrich your life by meeting the suffering Christ in the disenfranchised in our Diocese, please sign up to volunteer here or contact Sally O’Dwyer, Director of Volunteers, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 841-3838.