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Lenten Befriending: the Hole and the Whole

[caption id="attachment_1990" align="alignright" width="200"]Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting, OP Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting, OP[/caption] Lent is not defined by our individual programs of suffering and self-denial. As I mused in my February blog, at the heart of the season is "fastening" to God and one another. And if you will indulge me in a little more word-play, the fastening to God involves some nagging difficulties. The Hole and the Whole. The Hole is the neediness we carry from our birth, and the community, the Whole, is both support and trial, blessing and burden. Lent could be seen as a season of Befriending these parts of our lives which hold both peril and promise; not "getting them under control," but simply seeing the experiences of longing and uniting as Holy Realities in our lives, not to be mastered, shed, or avoided, but received as friends that help us open to God's presence and love: "Capax Dei," the desire and capacity for God. To be human is to have a hole. We are born needy. Our expression and understanding of our needs, wants, and desires change as we grow, but it is guaranteed that we will not always know exactly what we want, nor choose the best ways to fulfill our desires. For some of us, our neediness propels us into achievement, or the hoarding of things, or a deep sense of shame that we struggle to keep from bubbling up in our lives and relationships. But that hole remains, never satisfied, always craving, and St. Augustine is the voice which pronounces it as blessing: "You have made us O Lord, for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee." It may take a lifetime to learn that the emptiness we carry is the place where God wants to take up residence. Our mistakes in seeking to fill ourselves, and our vulnerabilities and secret shames become, as St.Paul understood, our glory; the weakness that allows God's entry and loving guidance. "For when I am weak, then I am strong." The Whole. The great gift, the great burden. The possibility of love and joy, of exasperation and alienation. We who are born helpless, but also attached, and we who are baptized into Christ are given community to love us, support us, help us grow as humans and Christians - and also as we well know, to create any number of problems in a life of seeking God. Everyone we meet on this life’s journey has a hole, and we suffer each other's as God makes a home in and among us. God never comes without the neighbor. "On two feet you must walk, on two wings you must fly to God," taught St. Catherine of Siena, who knew both the deep love of God and the exhausting efforts of urging conversion on corrupt church officials and warring city-states. She knew how deeply connected were the two loves. Every Lent we enter a new call to community prayer and service, the moment to recognize the preciousness of the other as we share the ancient tradition of supporting catechumens as they approach the Easter sacraments. Holes and Wholes, united in the rebirth of Baptism, and the mystery and strange joy of neediness woven into us. Could it be we carry a trace of Divine Longing, shared by the One who is also restless until Love unites us at last?

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