Faith and Family

I love Lent and all the time it provides us to reflect and examine our lives. We are annually brought into the mystery of the God-man, who shows us what real courage, real love looks like. But once that God-given and holy mission has been accomplished and Easter is celebrated, we are left with some deep and heartfelt questions. Among these are “What now?” and “Why me?”

What Now?

We lived, with varying degrees of success, our Lenten promises. We fasted, we prayed and we gave alms. We engaged in the Stations of the Cross; we may have visited our Lord at Eucharistic Adoration. We meditated on the incredibly high price for our salvation. We marveled at a love that, even in the agony of death on the Cross, wanted to forgive us of our sins and transgressions. Oh, boundless love! We saw the plan unfold on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. We saw the light pierce the darkness on Holy Saturday; we sang Glory Hallelujah. We welcomed back the light of life. We rejoiced! Now what do we do with all of that? How do we let that affect and change us?

Hopefully, we were paying attention during Lent to the subtle and perhaps not-so-subtle clues we were being sent. As we prayed and meditated and entered into the mystery, God was sending us signals. Perhaps it was compunction for a particular sin. Not only is this a clear impetus to head to the nearest confessional but also more broadly an invitation to allow the grace of the Paschal Mystery to help us to change. God loves us too much to let us stay in the darkness or error for too long.

On the other hand, perhaps what we noticed was that we were too focused on ourselves, noticing only the flaws in our reflected image. Noticing our shortcomings as husband or wife, mom or dad, grandma or grandpa. Noticing how we don’t, didn’t or haven’t measured up to our plans, goals and dreams. Within all this self-gazing, we hopefully caught sight of two other images. One, somewhere among all the could haves and should haves, shining through the vices and bad decisions, is the image of the Spirit of the Crucified One, now resplendent with glory. That image of the Resurrected One wants to shine through a little bit more. St. Elizabeth of the Holy Trinity said it well. “It seems to me that I have found my heaven on earth, because my heaven is you, my God, and you are in my soul. You in me, and I in you — may this be my motto.”

The other image that we see when we are peering at our own flaws and failings is the image behind us and beside us, the image of our companions on the journey of life. We notice that behind us are younger siblings, little cousins, children and others who are looking up to us to give them an example. We see beside us our spouses, family members, co-workers, acquaintances and friends wanting to share their lives with us, to hear our opinion, to share their burdens and to help carry ours. There is a sacredness in the Blessed Virgin Mary not having to be alone at the foot of the cross. Her incalculable burden was being shared by the two other Marys and by the disciple John. We, too, have that same opportunity, not only to accompany others in their heart-wrenching moments but to be accompanied by others who, though weak and fragile in their own ways, want to be there for us in our time of need.

Why Me?

The last Easter-time question is, what does all of this have to do with me? If Jesus did the impossibly hard work of reconciling sinful humanity with the perfect and good God, then why do I have to get involved? For clarity on this point, we need look no further than one of Jesus’ last words on the Cross: “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” (John 19:26-27)

On the Cross, Jesus was reconciling the world to God, but on the ground below the Cross there were still people who needed to be taken care of. His victory on the Cross was not going to bring the world and its needs to an end. He was changing the way we approach the world. Now heaven could shower down grace upon the earth like the spring rain. Now we could receive those many and varied gifts from the Holy Spirit to do the work that he would have done. You and me, we are implicated in the ongoing mission of Jesus because he came to liberate us from the bondage of sin and give us the freedom to live according to the Spirit, and the Spirit impels us to see with the eyes of Jesus, help with the hands of Jesus and walk with the feet of Jesus, and most importantly love with the heart of Jesus. Why you? Why me? Why us? Because it was for us and with us in mind that Jesus did what he did. Because it was the price of our freedom. Jesus himself tells us well: “I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)