As we prepare for this Lent of 2022, it seems to me the timing is good. With Russia invading Ukraine before the eyes of the world and as we watch and pray, deeply affected, this period of intensifying our prayer comes particularly welcome. Lent is the perfect time to remember our ability to heal the world and touch others with the power and love of God as we draw nearer to him on the path toward Easter that is Lent.
People Francis has said,
“I would like to appeal to everyone, believers and non-believers alike. Jesus taught us that the diabolical evil of violence is answered with the weapons of God, with prayer and fasting.
I invite everyone to make next March 2, Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting for peace. I encourage believers in a special way to devote themselves intensely to prayer and fasting on that day. May the Queen of Peace preserve the world from the madness of war.”
I am reminded that the disciplines we take up for Lent are not just for ourselves and our personal relationship with Jesus or merely for our own improvement and transformation. We aren’t going to the spiritual beauty shop or to the gym of souls for a virtues workout for our own peace of mind about ourselves. No. This is not only about ourselves.
Not only are we accompanying our beloved Lord into the desert to pray and be with him. No. When we accompany him, we accompany his brothers and sisters who suffer as well.
There is yet another aspect of our Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and alms giving, which is that these things we do can change the world.
As Catholics we know that everything we do affects everyone everywhere because we are all connected. This is why after Confession we don’t simply walk away free but we first do penance for our sins. Usually our penance is to remain in the church a while for prayer and reflection in some way that the priest suggests. Why do we do that? Fr. Greg McLaughlin explained it to me this way: when we have done something to harm someone else, it is best not only to apologize but to make amends as well. Because we are all connected to one another our sins, even our personal ones we think only hurt ourselves, harm everyone else on a spiritual level. So we make spiritual amends to repair the damage we have done.
When we pray, fast and make personal sacrifices in union with Jesus and his own sacrifice, he shares his salvific power with us. This is one of the ways we already reign with Christ.
As St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) put it:
“The world is in flames. Are you impelled to put
them out? Look at the cross. From the open heart
gushes the blood of the Savior. This extinguishes the
flames of hell. Make your heart free by [your commitment to God]; then the flood of divine
love will be poured into your heart until it overflows
and becomes fruitful to all the ends of the earth. Do
you hear the groans of the wounded on the
battlefields in the west and the east? You are not a
physician and not a nurse and cannot bind up the
wounds. You … cannot get
to them. Do you hear the anguish of the dying? You
would like to be a priest and comfort them. Does the
lament of the widows and orphans distress you? You
would like to be an angel of mercy and help them.
Look at the Crucified. If you are…bound to
Him…your being is precious blood. Bound to Him,
you are omnipresent as He is. You cannot help here
and there like the physician, the nurse, the priest.
You can be at all fronts, wherever there is grief,
in the power of the cross. Your compassionate
love takes you everywhere, this love from the
Divine Heart. Its Precious Blood is poured
everywhere, soothing, healing, saving. The eyes of
the Crucified look down on you asking, probing.
Will you make your covenant with the Crucified
anew in all seriousness? What will you answer
Him? Lord, where shall we go? You have the words
of eternal life.”
Whatever you undertake for Lent, whatever prayers, commitments, holy reading, various forms of fasting and self denial, do it intentionally and dedicate your actions, reflections and prayers for the good of the world, for peace, for all who suffer. When you receive Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist, you can offer your Communion for peace.
Remember that united to the Heart of God, you can set out in the Spirit across the world with Jesus, with Mary, and touch every face.