Several Franciscan brothers were asked to share their reflections as Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent approached. Here are a sampling of them:
- “Lent has come to mean a season of renewal in my relationship with God and all l my human and non-human sisters and brothers.”
- “Lent means spring. New life for the soul.”
- “It is discerning at the outset of Lent where I need to grow spiritually and then setting my sights on on what I need to do.”
- “My Lenten gift is to remind myself during the day: no matter what has happened to me in my
life… I am always in Jesus’ unconditional loving and healing embrace.”
- “I try to hold within myself the contradictions inflicted by human pride…”
- “I am drawn to the deeper meaning of the word wilderness.”
- “The time of Lent includes worshipping, praying, reflecting, and contemplating, but at a
mindful and slower pace.”
What strikes one on reading these reflections is the depth of each one’s spiritual life. They are by and large quite ordinary men, faithful to their vows and ministries. However, none of them would stand out as especially spiritual – until one reads their words. The adage “living ordinary life in an extraordinary manner” comes to mind.
Then something else emerges, perhaps based on Jesus’ words to the young person to whom Jesus said: “You are still lacking one thing.”
[What follows here is very subjective and is written with an apology if it is off the mark.]
The personal reflections cited above are wonderful, inspiring and we surely relate to them as we begin our own Lenten journeys, but perhaps lacking in a broader, social content in the objectives of Lent. Shouldn’t they also recognize, as followers of Jesus, the need to plea for Divine mercy and forgiveness as he did for the monstrous evil and sin in our times?
In the Pax Christi USA booklet for Lent “Witnesses on the Way,” Sister Pegge Boehm reflects on God’s charge to the people cited in Deuteronomy (30:19): “I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom… Choose life then. ” She applies this mandate to a major reality in the current state of our existence.: “People and planet are suffering devastating effects from choices made that did not ‘choose life.’ Rather, choices were made for profit, for power, for expansion of corporate footprints. As a result, those made poor in developing countries are suffering the most from death-dealing choices made by the greed of the First World.”
Lenten reflections such as these lead directly to the conclusion that this season of penance
demands prayers and actions of a broader kind. They call us to an ongoing global analysis of the
systemic evils of our times. And while our responses to such analyses will seem ineffective, we
will be raising our voices and acting, however modestly, in confrontation of today’s death
dealing “powers and principalities.” Providentially Pax Christi in many ways has led the way in
pointing to a “Lenten spirituality” appropriate for these modern phenomena.
This “outward oriented” Gospel spirituality extends as well to every aspect of our faith life –
something which we must articulate constantly to the larger Church community. Despite our
wonderful Catholic Social Teaching current catechesis has by and large been limited to a self-
referential view of Gospel life.
There is need to teach concepts such as “praying with the Word of God in one hand and the
daily newspaper in the other”; understanding evil as both personal and institutionalized;
recognizing the social consequences of the Eucharist; calling for an ongoing reading of the signs
of the times; [for vowed sisters and brothers] understanding the commitments to poverty,
chastity and obedience as counter-cultural social statements.
Above all, constantly pointing out the final objective of human life: helping build the Reign of
God on earth.
Joe Nangle OFM is a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. As a member of the Assisi Community in Washington, D.C., he is dedicated to simple living and social change. Joe also serves as the Pastoral Associate for the Latino community at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Arlington, Virginia.