When I was looking over the readings for Lent the phrase that grabbed me by the heart was from the Responsorial Psalm for this Sunday, “Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.” This phrase is one I hope to carry throughout Lent.
In the First Reading for today from the Book of Joel, we see that a fast is proclaimed. However, in the announced time of penance it is not “every man for himself.” Joel clearly instructs the congregation to come together to proclaim a fast and petition God for mercy for the whole community.
This Lent, we might take the opportunity to intentionally come together as a family, as a classroom, as a prayer group, etc. to acknowledge this Lenten Season and pray together for God’s Mercy. Together, we can talk about how we can all work to turn towards God and away from sin.
Typically, conversations around Lent tend to formulated around the question, “What are you giving up?” But my experience has been that this leads to competition and quickly takes the focus off of Christ.
Because Lent can very easily become about us and what we are doing, it might be helpful to structure our Lenten journey around those opportunities when we meet as a family, prayer group, or parish. The very act of coming together connects us with the One in whose Name we are gathered and makes us aware of the Presence of God in our midst. It is in this context that we often hear God’s voice calling us to conversion and transformation.
Gathering as a community enables us to remember our dependence upon each other and upon God as we recognize our own needs and those of others. We can so easily desensitize ourselves to our longing for God. We operate on autopilot, forgetting to call upon the Lord for help. We forget that he is always upholding our existence, always ready to come to our aid. But the Liturgy this week reminds us of our desire for God to be with us, and of the reality of His continuous presence among us each day.
With our brothers and sisters in the Lord, let us invite Him into our joys and sorrows. Let us recognize the needs of others and petition the Lord for His mercy. We do this each week at Mass during the Intercessions, but is there space for this kind of prayer at home at the dinner table or before bed? Do we pray with our neighbors, co-workers, friends, and those God puts in our lives? These experiences can be very humbling and nerve-wracking, but never once have I regretted praying with others, especially with the sick and the dying. It is less about saying the right thing and more about “being with” the person as God has promised to be with us.
By strengthening ourselves in prayer, we can make this Season of Lent a time of evangelization. Because we recognize our own need of Communion with God and others, we can see the longing in the hearts of others who may have less opportunity for connection. It is not up to us to save or fix others, but God does ask us to be His witnesses, His disciples, His conduits of grace. By being with someone, by recognizing the goodness in his or her soul, we reflect back to that person God’s presence in his or her soul.
When we pray with others we exercise our baptismal roles as priest, prophet and king. We are able to call upon the name of the Lord and invoke His intercession as we have the Spirit within us who knows how to pray, even when
we do not. We are able to testify as prophets to God’s promise of salvation and His love for all people. We who are children of God and co-heirs with Christ in God are able to ask “anything” of Him. Do we have the courage to do this? Do we ask God for the eyes to see and the ears to hear those around us who need someone to accompany them?
This Lent, I encourage you to ask yourself how the Lord might be calling you to community. Where is He asking you to be with others and where is he calling you to serve? How can you help bring God’s love and mercy into that community? How can you bring that love and mercy into your own heart in order to transform it into a version much like Christ’s own Sacred Heart?