A Lenten Reflection
One of my fave Cardinals, His Eminence Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, SJ has just issued his Lenten homily online. It seemed to be a good one, and so here it is. (Translation, emphasis and comments mine.)
The Church Yes! He said The Church! This guy gets it! sends us forth, on the way to an encounter with Jesus, the only road that has constancy, the only valid way that takes me to meet my Lord, He who gives sense to life. Starting upon this road today makes us participate in an act, a message and an admonition.
The act: we are all going to receive ashes on our heads to indicate what we are. At the end of [our] years -- some more, some less -- we all finish the same way: by turning into ash. And yet, a voice inside tells each of us: "You were born for other things, not just to turn to ashes." You were born for an encounter, for a fulfillment of the heart that is the encounter with Jesus. And today, upon receiving the ashes that carry this meaning, each of us is should ask [himself]: "What do I seek in life?"
What do I seek? Do I seek an encounter with Jesus that is going fulfill me, that gives me the only happiness that cannot be lost? Or am I goofing around? [Literally, "doing 'the turkey trot'." It's an Argentinism with no direct equivalent...just let it go.] Am I mired in superficiality? "Father, it's that everyone is like that. One cannot go against the [social] current..." It's true, at times the environment takes you down. Not long ago, I read a fable written by a monk. He wrote that some boys were climbing a mountain and they found an eagle egg and they brought it home. When they saw that in their coop there was a turkey incubating her eggs and they put the eagle egg under the turkey with the other eggs. Then, all the eggs hatched. The hatchlings all started equals but as they grew, they began to become different. When they began to have some measure of autonomy the turkeys splashed around the water and eaglet was among them even though he did not know how to play in the water; and each time he saw an eagle fly [overhead], he felt something inside him pulling him skyward but he couldn't go...he was among the turkeys. He was acting like a turkey. Are you? You who has the vocation of an eagle, of an encounter with Jesus...for what do you live? For mundane things? To keep up appearances? We all have been called by God to serve Him via different vocations, let's honor those vocations.
Let's all think about it, because it's a message for all of us. The ash puts this question to us: Do you wish to fly to the message of Jesus, already starting to live in fullness or do you wish to live like a turkey, in superficiality? That is the meaning of this act. Friendship with the world is enmity with God, yes?
Also the Church puts a message before us. St. Paul, in the Second Reading says: "Therefore I entreat you, in name of Christ -- that's nice…he says "please" -- allow yourself to reconcile with God." Each one of us has to encounter the Lord more, [as] we are all sinners. Please, if there is anyone [here] who is not a sinner, raise your hand so we can give you a prize. We are all sinners. All. And we need to reconcile with Jesus that one thing we all know has to be reconciled: an injustice, a hatred, an envy, an aggression, a rupture...you know it and God knows it. Admit with contrition what you have done wrong and allow God's grace to repair your brokenness. But St. Paul, seemingly on his knees, asks us: "Look, if you're a Christian allow yourself to reconcile with God!" This is a good time to allow yourself to reconcile with God! The time we spend on this road toward encountering Jesus is going to end at Easter when we sing that Alleluia filled with joy. Because there is our triumph. Not on election night.
Allow yourself to reconcile with God. That is the message. The act is in [imposition of] ashes and the message is "let's allow ourselves to reconcile with God".
And the admonition? The admonition is the one Jesus gives us in the Gospel: "Look, don't be a hypocrite, live like you are supposed to." God has placed His commands, not suggestions, and given His Church teaching authority to convey them and we are to try to adhere to them. If you are sinful, the Lord tells us, do what every sinner ought do: break down your [hard] heart and be converted. Pray more, make penance (such as depriving yourself of something you like or something superfluous), help others, give alms, perform acts of charity. His Eminence is exactly right, reminding us that we are our brother's keeper and Christ has enjoined us, as individuals, to look after those less fortunate. Do not live for you, because notice that sin, at the bottom [of it all], is grounded in selfishness. When we live in a situation of sin, we live centered in ourselves. We become the type of man or woman who instead of being called John, Peter, Mary, Antonia is called "me-myself-and-I." That is what the world teaches us, to be "me-myself-and-I." [To those who live] centered in oneself, in selfishness or "for me," Jesus says: "No. Pray. Open your heart to God. Open your heart to your brothers and give alms. You deprive yourself, that you can give alms. Spend your time visiting your sick brother, accompanying someone in solitude who needs it. Do not you live for you."
Today we start on this road with an act, a message and an admonition. The ash is the act; allow yourself to reconcile with God is the message and the admonition is more prayer and more penance. More service to others. Let us open our heart to the service of others.
I ask the Virgin to accompany all of us down this road; this road of reconciliation with Jesus and of encounter with Jesus, which is the most marvelous thing that can happen in our lives. When we encounter the Lord, our heart is broadened, is made greater, it becomes more generous and is capable of giving to the others instead of harvesting for itself.
May the Virgin help us to understand selfishness does lead anywhere. That vanity and keeping up appearances do not get us anywhere and only leads to ashes. And, if service to others makes us great -- as does adoration of God !!!-- this clears our path for that encounter with Jesus, a thing I ask for you and for me as we begin Lent.
May be it thus.