I love the feeling that Lent brings – a deeper relationship with God that comes from the prayers and from the ways we help others see the presence of Christ in how we live, love, or respond to various needs. Even though we live a life of prayer throughout the year, Lent brings a special meaning to me as we pray with the Stations of the Cross and turn our hearts to God more intentionally.
Each year, I used to set a new ‘challenge’ for myself. However, this year, I went blank each time I thought about giving up something for Lent. I decided to go online and search for some ideas. I found an article about what to give up in the light of one’s MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) personality. It sounded interesting. Based on my personality-type, I was invited to give up internalizing things, and so I challenged myself to give up that one for Lent. Ash Wednesday came, and ashes were smudged upon our foreheads in the shape of a cross as a reminder to ‘repent and believe in the Gospel.’ When I was younger, I used to compare my classmates’ ash-crosses with mine. To be honest, I still look at other’s crosses and mine too. Last week, I ran into a Facebook posting that labelled and interpreted the different shapes of the “ash crosses,” as shown in the illustration below. This was a light-hearted one, instead of anything serious. I looked in the mirror and thought: “sweet, it’s not ‘The Blob’ and it’s not ‘Father’s revenge’. It is definitely a cross… I think it looks like ‘The Mini.’” Then, I started to internalize: “what does this “Mini” cross mean for me – what is the invitation here?” Then, the next thing I was thinking: “Oh, great… I’m internalizing already.”
It was God, through the action of a boy, who guided me back to my Lenten commitment. In the evening, I read on the news online that a 9-year old student was asked by his teacher in Utah to wash off the cross on his forehead. It was his first time receiving ashes, and it was a choice that the boy carefully made after asking questions of his grandmother. She carefully informed him why Catholics receive the cross on Ash Wednesday, but she also added that he didn’t need to receive it because his classmates would probably ask him questions. The brave, young boy followed God in his heart: “OK, I want to wear them.” Later, the boy was asked by his teacher to wash it off. However, the boy’s beliefs truly determined what he was about to do as he followed God in his heart and gained courage to inform his principal. [The principal, and since then the teacher, too, apologized.)
I realized that, although my Lenten commitment helps me deepen my relationship with God, it should no longer be ‘an annual challenge.” From now on, I want my Lenten commitment to be about seeking continuously what God wants of me, and to be about my response to what God is calling me to be/do, and then follow that in a way that deepens my relationship with God and that helps others recognize God’s presence and God’s love.
I love the Servant song by Sr. Donna McGargill OSM, because it inspires me to stay tuned to God and to seek continuously what God wants of me. I especially like these lines: “What do you want of me Lord? Where do you want me to serve you? Where can I sing your praises? (…) Your Spirit stirs my deepest self (…) Fire my life with your love (…) Jesus, Jesus, you are the Lord. Jesus, Jesus, you are the way.”
On this National Catholic Sisters Week, I would like to express my gratitude for all vowed religious sisters who responded to God’s call and have been singing their praises to God through their witness of faith. Their faithfulness, compassion, courage, and passion for justice inspire me day-by-day. Thank you!
As you continue this Lenten season, what is God calling you to and what is your response? If you think that God is calling you to religious life, please contact us at email@example.com.