Lent can sometimes be seen as a time to grind our teeth to stick to our fasting resolutions, or giving things up as a path to discipline and self-improvement, maybe even weight loss! In reality, Lent is about attuning ourselves to God, in our bodies and our souls, so that we can welcome the life He offers us in the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.
Each of us finds different ways of preparing the way for Easter through prayer, fasting, and acts of charity. Sometimes we can be tempted to experience Lent as a solo sport, something purely between me and God. We may picture ourselves alone with Jesus in the desert.
We can easily overlook the fact that Lent is a team effort. The whole Church moves towards the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus! We are on the same journey together as fellow pilgrims on the path that leads us to Easter joy.
Amid so many challenges facing our world at this time, what if this Lent we focused on becoming the Church that the world needs today? How is God calling us to be the Church that He wants for humanity at this moment of history?
Pope Francis has often said that he sees the Church as a field hospital in the middle of the battlefield. This image has never been more relevant than in the middle of a worldwide pandemic!
So what are the wounds of the battlefield today? How can we provide urgent care for the injured soldiers of our time in need of our aid?
Wound #1: LONELINESS.
Mother Teresa described loneliness as the "leprosy of the Western world". So many people, including our family members, friends, and neighbours, are suffering from deep feelings of loneliness and isolation at this time. What can we do to reach out to them and provide a ray of light in the midst of their darkness?
Wound #2: DESPAIR.
People have lost their jobs, students are struggling at school, there is so much uncertainty about how we will get through this and what the world will look like after. What can we do to offer faith, hope, and a sense of meaning amid so much confusion? How can our trust in God, who never abandons us, be a source of comfort and consolation for someone tempted by hopelessness? How can we encourage others at this difficult time and do what we can to support them concretely?
Wound #3: DEFEAT.
It can be so easy to give in to a shut-down mentality, where all of us just stay cooped up at home and hibernate until the world goes back to normal. This is not the hour of defeat but our defining moment. We are not slaves of our circumstances; we are called to find new and creative ways of living our mission today towards a better future tomorrow. Even from home we can pray for the needs of the world, for our neighbours, for our friends. We can write letters to loved ones, as well as religious and political leaders advocating for positive change. We can stay connected to people who are alone. We can donate to a charity that's making a difference.
What can we do as a Church to shake off the winter slumber and bring about a springtime of caring for one another and building a better world for humanity? The field hospital of the Church is not primarily composed of priests, nuns, and bishops. Most of us hospital workers are ordinary people living in the world, and each of us has a vital role to play. Together, we are the eyes, hands, and heart of Jesus in our world today. Our mission in the world is more urgent and necessary than ever. Now is not the time to fall asleep at the wheel. It is the time to suit up and reach out.
What can we do this Lent to be the Church that humanity needs on today's battlefield?
Julian would be happy to hear from you, with any questions, insights, or suggestions you may have regarding this blog series. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Julian Paparella is a theology student at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Studies in Rome. Born and raised in London, Ontario, he has worked in pastoral ministry in Montreal and Paris, especially with young people. Julian strives to communicate our faith in a way that resonates with everyday life, helping people to better experience God today. He is married to Marion.