The final word is love.
Next week we will begin the season of Lent. Seems like we just celebrated Christmas, but here we are: mid-February with Lent around the corner.
I've always had a real appreciation for the season of Lent. The infinite mercy of God and my constant need for it is typically at the forefront of my mind and has been since I was a teenager. As I've gotten older, though, the meaning of Lent has expanded for me. Now, I consider my response to God's love and mercy. God is "kind and merciful, slow to anger." ... Okay. Now what does that mean for me in my daily life. Does it make a difference?
It's during Lent that I take stock of life and relationships. How am I doing with being a person of love and compassion? How do I live out my love of God? Dorothy Day once wrote, "I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least." I'm not sure about you, but the truth of this quote scares me a little and challenges me.
Earlier this month I was part of an e-mail exchange with two former students of mine. We were discussing the meaning of love, friendship, relationships and ultimately the human condition. The exchanges were very lengthy and ranged from the philosophical and theological to the mundane. The exchanges challenged me and offered excellent points for reflection. What does it mean to love others in the day-to-day, concrete situations of our lives? Believe me, the answers are not as clear as we would like to think.
In recent years my reflections and prayer during Lent have also been shaped by my formation process with the Marianist Sisters. You see, the timing works out that it is always during Lent that I write my annual letter expressing my desire for the next stage of formation or a renewal of vows. The writing of the letter is a process of discernment in and of itself. I am asked to consider my life in community and in ministry, my living of the vows (poverty, chastity, obedience and stability), how I live out our mission and how I sense my call to religious life as a Marianist. And really, it all boils down to love - in the concrete, day-to-day messiness of life. The final word is, indeed, love.
On a side note, next week the Archdiocese of Cincinnati will launch a new blog/website - Being Catholic. Several weeks ago the Archdiocese asked me to be one of the contributing bloggers. My first post should go up on Ash Wednesday. Chances are it will be a reflection on Lent, love and/or conversion. Please be sure to check it out:
Many Lenten blessings to all who read this!