Friday, February 26, 2010

Lent and Our Spiritual “Instinct” To Reform Our Lives

Lent is a forty-day invitation to reform, to plant new seeds where stones and rubbish once occupied parts of our souls.


The need for reform is a spiritual instinct which God has created in every one of us. It is an instinct that allows us to desire for and to be opened to expanding God's life within us.  To do that, we must remove the obstructions we have piled up within ourselves.

Whenever we experience stress, isolation, hurt feelings, jealousy or anger, flashing red lights should turn on in our souls.  These emotions and attitudes warn us that our relationship with ourselves - and/or - our relationship with others - and/or - 
our relationship with God - needs to change: needs spiritual renewal.
None of us is in a privileged position that relieves us of our obligation to bring about deeper maturity in our spiritual lives. We mature as Christians whenever we actively return to following God's ways. This was Saint John the Baptizer's urgent message to us: "'Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!'" [Matthew 3:1-3]

Our Lord Jesus wants us to experience the joy that reform brings: Joy that there is new spiritual life growing within us.  We have all received the seeds God has given us.  Now, we must allow them to grow.  However, the fruits of spiritual growth manifest themselves during - what seems to us to be - an indefinite period of time.  Change comes over the span of time.


The problem with this, is that while waiting for the growth, we may be tempted to doubt that change is possible, or that a worthwhile change is coming soon.


When Saint John the Baptizer was in prison,  he heard of the miraculous works of the the Lord Jesus.  John sent some of his disciples to Our Lord Jesus with the question, "Are you the One who is to come, or should we look for another?" [Matthew 11:2-6]    John, who had been waiting a long time for the growth of God's Kingdom on earth, seems to have been tempted to doubt if a worthwhile change would be coming soon.  It caused him to question Our Lord Jesus: "Are you the One?"


A question that is worthy of our reflection and our prayer at least once during Lent, is:  Are You the One, Lord Jesus?   Occasionally, we need to put ourselves in the place the Apostles found themselves as they traveled with Our Lord Jesus into the region of Caesarea Philippi.  "He asked his disciples, 'Who do people say the Son of Man is?'"  Our Lord Jesus then asked them: "'But who do you say that I am?'" [Matthew 16:13-17]


Have we ever asked ourselves the reasons why we believe?   Have we ever asked Jesus the Christ, "Are You the one I will grow to become like? Are You the soul of my spiritual life?" 


The question Saint John the Baptizer asked Our Lord Jesus - and Our Lord Jesus' response to the question - reveal something about our personal relationship with God: God never forces us!
God never pressures us to believe, but rather invites us to believe. God shows us the way His love works, and then leaves it up to us to accept or reject Him.  God is patient with us. God lets us grow in our uniquely individual ways.


To allow us to improve our lives, God suggests things to us: "Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those who are frightened, 'be strong, fear not!'" [Isaiah 35:1-60]   And then, after His suggestions, God courteously invites us to accept Him.


God is continuously transmitting a message to us: through Scripture, the holy Eucharist,  the Sacrament of Penance, and our Church's holy Traditions.  His message  is: "See what I'm doing? See how I love you?  I am the One you are looking for!  I am forming you into the image and likeness of My beloved Son, Jesus!  I want to see and love in you what I see and love in Him!"  That's the reason why we all must be firmly committed to continuously, unendingly growing in spiritual maturity.  And that's we must be patient with our maturation.  Growth takes time.  Change doesn't come all at once. But if it is happening, we'll know it.  We'll feel a gentle, quiet joy deep within - a  grateful joy of knowing that God is bringing it about.  Put your faith in that!


In quiet prayer, may I suggest that you recall all of the ways in which God - in His compassion for you --  has worked to heal, console, guide, and bring you new growth. Then, be joyful and offer God thanks!


After your prayer, may I also suggest a practical deed of Christ-like service:  Bring God's compassion to another person who could use it.  Extend some hope to someone who feels and thinks like Saint John the Baptizer in prison.

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Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!
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