By Fr Michael Knight SVD
In this day and age we may well ask what meaning and relevance such a season of the year could have for us. When I was young it was about “giving up something” like chocolates or biscuits.
Now, for me, it means more about being aware of certain attitudes and behaviours that need healing.
We all have our own particular weaknesses that mostly won’t go away.
I am called, during Lent especially, to accept them as a part of myself and to bring them to Jesus for healing.
At certain times while I have been giving a homily in the local Parish church, and talking about strengths and weakness, I have used the building itself as an illustration in my homily. I would point out that we are all here together in this brick building with its glass windows. Then I would say that the weakest part of the building is the glass windows, because if someone throws something at them they can easily break. However on the other hand it is the same glass windows that let in the sunlight. So if we didn’t have the windows we would be in darkness. I go on to say that just as the light enters the building through the windows, and not the brickwork, so too the grace of our loving God enters our hearts and lives through our very weaknesses.So I can pray, “Thank you God for your healing grace poured into my heart through my very weaknesses”.
Lent is about ‘Letting Go’
I ask myself the Question: ‘What am I holding onto so tightly that prevents me from being close to God and others?”
At one time I would have thought of : “Chocolate, Ice-cream, cake or a favourite TV show”.
Nowadays for me it is more to do with:
Impatience; Resentments; Grudges; Bitterness at past hurts; Being judgemental; Being manipulative; Being Self-centred … and, you may think of one or two others that are relevant for you …
Let me share something personal about Impatience.
On a regular basis, I have to go shopping for the community at the local supermarket. I used to stand there in the queue and the lady at the cash register seemed to be taking her time, chatting with the other customers etc. I would become impatient and wish she would just do her job and hurry up so I can get out of the shop and back to all the work awaiting me in the office. Over time I have realised that I need to let go of my impatience and literally “go with the flow”. I chill out and bring my impatience to God for healing, along with a prayer for the lady at the cash register. It’s amazing what a difference this can make. By the time I also reach the cash register I find myself asking her: ”How is your day?”.
I leave the shop feeling more at peace and I pray this for her also.
This is healing in a very ordinary daily situation.
Lent is also about ‘Pulling Back’
I ask myself the Question: “How can I be an agent of reconciliation in my family, parish, work place and neighbourhood etc?”
One Sunday after morning Mass in my Preston parish in Melbourne, I had to take a taxi to the airport. As we drove along a busy city street, another parked car suddenly pulled out in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes and we skidded and slid to a halt barely missing the other vehicle.
I thought the other driver would get out of his car and apologise but instead he started yelling abuse from his vehicle and gave us the finger. My taxi driver smiled, waved and shouted, “Have a good day”. I was surprised and as we drove on, I asked him how he could still be so friendly to the other driver. He told me that over the years he has experienced that some people drive in a very bad inner state and simply take it out on other drivers. He has learnt that it doesn’t do any good to respond in kind because it means that he takes all that negativity on board and also spreads it around to others. Therefore, he just smiles, waves and moves on.My taxi driver had just given me a good practical lesson in Gospel living.
When I now reflect on my past life, on times when others have hurt me, I can ask myself as to why they have behaved like that and the answer I come to is that they are probably carrying some pain and anguish within themselves, perhaps even unconsciously. So, such people are actually in need of prayer and healing.
Surely this is why Jesus teaches us to: “turn the other cheek” and “to pray for the enemy” (ie those who cause us hurt and suffering). This is not easy because the temptation to hit back is very strong. Such a decision may sound passive and even negative to some but the final goal is very positive.
So for me Lent is about these deeply personal movements of ‘Letting Go’ and ‘Pulling Back’.
This reflection was first published in ‘In the Word’, the e-News publication of the Divine Word Missionaries.