Living Lent by God’s Will
by Jeannie Ewing – Catholic Exchange
Lent reminds us to slow down, pay attention, and turn inward. So often, we are focused on doing more, of turning activity into success. We don’t see the point or purpose of dependence, helplessness, and ultimately passion. Most of us spend our lives searching for more that we can contribute to society.
But when life strikes us with prolonged illness, temporary incapacitation due to an accident or injury, or aging, we call ourselves burdens. Waiting in passivity can be excruciating, but moving through Lent by meditating on the Passion of Jesus grants us clues about how we can wait without wasting our time.
Passion is fruitful. It is the only way we fulfill our Christian journey by following in Jesus’s footsteps.
At the Last Supper, Jesus said, “All things are finished.” (Some translations are “My work is complete.”) But on the Cross he said, “It is finished.” What does this mean? He told his disciples that his work was complete, yet there was still more to be done. The only thing left would be His suffering and death.DOWNLOAD THE BULLETIN
This is pivotal in our understanding that work is not our highest goal for which to strive, nor is it what defines our worthiness. Jesus taught us that. He demonstrated that the highest calling for all of us is to allow ourselves to become empty as His body was emptied of Precious Blood and Water, to die to our whims and worries. In the end, we fall into the arms of God in total dependence upon His active and permissive will.
Lent reminds us that passion has a divine purpose, not just for Jesus, but for us all. We can meditate on the life of Jesus, in that He spent three very active years of preaching, healing, teaching, and traveling. But this was not the be-all-end-all. It was not the end, only the means to His willingness to become helpless.
Jesus allowed Himself to be handed over to Pilate. Whatever was to be done afterward He knew was the plan of His Heavenly Father. Living our passion might translate into relinquishing control over how we will suffer or even what we will suffer. Placing ourselves in total trust as we live the life God has chosen for us means more than deciding for ourselves what sorts of sacrifices we will make for His sake.
The path of Jesus is our path, too. Sometimes the things God asks of us diverge greatly from our own plans. Lent allows us to meditate on this reality as it pertains to what we are called to do – here and now, in this time and place.
Not long ago, I was in a particularly painful season of waiting — a sort of mini-Lent. It seemed my life had lost its luster, and I could find no meaning in the nothingness. Like most people, I want to move forward instead of stagnate, but all of my efforts at doing so became barren.
Ben and I had just moved to a new city and home with our oldest two girls, and we awaited the arrival of our third daughter within weeks of this transition. While sitting at an OB appointment, I ran into a friend from grade school. We chatted for a few moments, then parted ways as we were called into separate exam rooms.
Two weeks later, I received a message from her on social media. She was leaving the hospital after giving birth, when an Amish gentleman passed by and congratulated her on her new baby. She noticed he was wearing a sticker that read “proud father,” so she returned the gesture. He paused, thoughtful, then said, “Thank you. Our son was born with what the doctors think is something called Apert syndrome.”
Immediately, my friend remembered our conversation from two weeks earlier, and she mentioned to him she knew of another family who had a child with this condition. So she contacted me for permission to connect us with this family. I heartily accepted. He and his wife called me from the hospital, still unnerved at the news.
I remembered being in that place well and having no one to commiserate with, no answers to be given to our big questions. It was an honor and joy to be God’s agent in that moment, to provide the parents with useful information, hope for their son, and honesty about the mystery of this rare disease.
It occurred to me that my waiting, though painful, had played out in such an unexpected, but providential, manner. Living my Lent became an enfleshed sort of prayer, an incarnation of the season of fruitlessness. I was reminded that God makes all things beautiful and fruitful in His time and way.
Sometimes we think we are meant to do God’s work when He is beckoning us to do His will. We believe volunteering for every ministry at church or school, participating in noble and worthy charities, or otherwise doing good is automatically God’s will. But that isn’t always the case.
There are powerful periods of life in which we seem to be doing nothing at all, yet God is asking us to be recipients of someone else’s love, charity, and works of mercy. His will isn’t always obvious. We know that. There is a sort of necessary receptivity to the Holy Spirit that must be present in our hearts at all times. Lent makes us more aware of this need to listen to God’s voice and to humbly respond with our fiat, even if that means saying “no” to something else that is good.
The way of God is not always our way. When we live our Lent faithfully, God moves in our lives fruitfully.