Just yesterday, it seems, we were putting away the Nativity set; today we’re planning what we’ll give up for Lent. Where did the time go?

Regardless, Lent is on its way, and I’ll need to figure out what I’m going to do as penance. I know I’ll choose something – or more than one something – to give up, but I’m sensing that I need to go in another direction. I’m sensing that this Lent needs to be less about what I’m going to do without and more about what I’m going to do with. This Lent I feel called to do more with my prayer life.

In that respect, I’ve been pondering Pope Francis’ words in his morning homily at Casa Santa Marta on Feb. 3, 2015. He spoke about how daily contemplation of the Gospels gives us hope, and he encouraged his listeners to spend 10 minutes each day reading the Scripture and then talking to the Lord – not in rote prayer, but in real conversation. Then he explained how he himself does it, using that day’s Gospel as an example. The reading was about Jesus curing the daughter of Jairus, one of the synagogue officials, and then healing the woman who’d hemorrhaged for 12 years.

 “How do I contemplate with today’s Gospel?” he said. “I see that Jesus was in the middle of the people, he was surrounded by a large crowd. Five times this passage uses the word ‘crowd.’ Did Jesus ever rest? This would lead me to think: ‘Always with the crowd ….’ Most of Jesus’ life was on the streets, with the crowd. Did he ever rest?

“Yes, once, says the Gospel, he was sleeping on the boat but the storm came and the disciples woke him. Jesus was constantly in the midst of the people. And this is how we look at Jesus, contemplate Jesus, imagine Jesus. And so I tell Jesus what comes to my mind to tell him.”

The Holy Father also observed that Jesus doesn’t only understand the crowd, but he feels the crowd. That’s how he knew that the woman had touched his cloak. Instructing the family to give the newly risen girl something to eat shows that “Jesus always thinks of the little things.” 

“What I have just done with this Gospel is a prayer of contemplation: take up the Gospel, read and imagine the scene, imagine what happens and talk to Jesus, from the heart,” the pope explained.

In this way, Pope Francis said, we allow hope to grow because we keep our gaze fixed on Jesus. 

That’s exactly what I want to do this Lent. Of course I want to do penance, but additionally I want to do more with my prayer life. Perhaps I won’t be as good at it as Pope Francis is, at least not at first. But, I’m certainly eager to give it a try. This Lent, I want to keep my gaze fixed on Jesus and allow hope to grow.

(Fenelon, a mother of four, and her husband, Mark, belong to St. Anthony Parish, Milwaukee. Visit her website: www.margefenelon.com.)