On Ash Wednesday, there is a passage from the Prophet Joel that says in part: “Blow the trumpet in Zion! Proclaim a fast, call an assembly; gather the people, notify the congregation; assemble the elders, gather the children and the infants at the breast; … ‘Spare, O Lord, your people, and make a reproach, with the nations ruling over them! Why should they say among the peoples, Where is their God?”(Joel 2:12 – 18)
This passage sets the stage for the faithful Christians to not only fast but also to reflect – to ask questions like “Where is their God?” Reflection on one’s personal life is critical for growth and the Lenten season offers to those who wish, an opportunity to think about the world in which we live. How are things going in the family? How have the relationships we are in developed from the last Lenten season? When we give up things, what reason did we have to give them up? Are these different things from last Lent? What is our relationship with the Lord like this year and how is it different from last year? We can reflect on these questions and many, many more.
Each week there are different themes that can help us to grow. Here are some thoughts:
- Week One: Luke 4: 1-13: how do I deal with the many temptations in my life?
- Week Two: Luke 9: 28b – 36: how has the Lord revealed Himself to me and to my family?
- Week Three: Luke 13: 1-9: in a troubled world, how can we go beyond suffering to see the love and justice of the Lord?
- Week Four: John 4: 5 – 42: how do we experience the Lord in today’s world? How do we heal, forgive, act compassionately, and love our enemies?
- Week Five: 2 Corinthians 5: 17 – 21: how do we serve as ambassadors of the Lord in our daily lives?
- Week Six: Luke 19: 28 – 40: how do we welcome Jesus into our homes and the homes of our neighbors?
- Week Seven: John 13: 1 – 15: by sharing His Life and Death, our earth was to be a place of kindness, forgiveness, helping, openness – is it?
These passages can give us food for thought and might lead us to a second possible way to approach the Lenten season. Perhaps, we can see Lent not as much a giving up as much as an opportunity to explore things. What does this mean? The Congregation of St. Joseph and the Associate (lay members) of the Congregation make a statement that goes like this:
Stimulated by the Holy Spirit of Love and receptive to the Spirit’s inspirations, the Sister of St. Joseph and Associate moves always toward profound love of God and love of neighbor without distinction … she/he works in order to achieve unity both of neighbor with neighbor and neighbor with God… in humility – (and) in sincere charity.
Lent is a time to act and to reflect on our actions. It is a time to remember and to renew our commitment to change the world in which we live. Sometimes we change our world through specific actions like working in our communities or helping the sick and dying. We can also learn to raise our consciousness of the issues of the Earth – ecology, recycling, and tilling the earth or educate ourselves around the issues of global warming, changes on the globe, and care for the earth and all of its inhabitants.
Sometimes we may need to educate ourselves on specific issues such as understanding the issues of human trafficking, the care and sensitivity for the aging, concern for those who are on death row unjustly, equal rights, and eradicating the injustices born out of discrimination and insensitivity to those of difference from us.
Finally, Lent is a time to learn how such leaders as Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, Mary, Joseph, Mary of Magdela, Rebecca, and Ruth made a difference. It is also a time to see how modern leaders such as Thea Bowman, Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Thomas Merton, Martin Luther King, Teilhard de Chardin, Ghandi, Desmond Tutu, Dorothy Day, Pope John XXIII, John Cardinal Newman, Damien, Kateri Tekakwitha, and many, many others led the way to revolutionary changes on our planet. From their lives, we can learn how to exercise our leadership at home and in our communities. We can make a difference.
Lent can be a time of reflection. Lent can be a time to seek actions that can make the world a better place to live in. Lent can be a time to learn how to get involved.
I pray during this Lent to hear in our lives the words from the Gospel of John 17: 21 Father may they all be one as you are in me and I in you, so that the world may truly believe that you have sent me. I pray for a peace-filled, thought-filled and spiritual Lent.
Robert Labadie Funaro MA, LLP, Ed.D
Associate Member of the Congregation of St. Joseph
Dr. Bob Funaro is a psychotherapist who practices in Ada, Michigan. He holds degrees and certifications in psychology, theology, and education. He is a marriage and family therapist, assists with training adults who are entering the church, and works with couples preparing for marriage. He also assists with persons who have experienced a personal or professional loss. His professional and personal belief is summarized in the theme the Journey Emerges. Bob has been an Associate of the Congregation of St. Joseph for over 30 years. Dr. Bob is married (33 years), has four children, and three grandchildren.