Fr. Jim Phalan, C.S.C., discusses reconciliation as the underlying context of our Lenten observance.
“Lent, are you kidding me?” one might comment. “Haven’t we had enough penance from Covid already?” However, Lent does indeed begin today – and rather than another burden, it comes as a big help to us now!
How? Suffering and Lenten penance are NOT the same thing. Lenten penance is about conversion: turning from what binds us and blinds us to the One who frees us and leads us on the way to true life. His sacrifice on the Cross is the great act of the Reconciliation of humanity with God. Putting conversion into practice means walking on a path by which we are, in truth, reconciled with God and one another. From the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday and till we stand with Our Lady at the Foot of the Cross we hear a great call from the Lord: Be reconciled with Me and with one another!
The traditional Lenten practices of fasting, almsgiving, and prayer can offer a matrix and a field for that reconciliation. We practice fasting, the discipline of limiting our intake of food, media, etc., to focus on what’s most important in life and to put God in the center. Fasting must go hand in hand with prayer. In Lent we should give enough time and attention to prayer so that we can look deeply into our hearts with the Lord to so as to see how we are meeting Him in our lives—and how we are not. Finally, our almsgiving isn’t simply making a few easy donations to the poor. Rather, we are to grow in truly giving of ourselves.
In that “space” we are encouraged to create in our hearts and in our homes during Lent, can we open ourselves to God and one another in the reconciliation we need? The initiative for reconciliation always comes from God. In Lent His grace awaits as in a special way to help us to see how we have failed Him and others we love. It takes courage to see ourselves and then to say, “I’m sorry, forgive me,” but to do so opens for us the way to healing. When someone who has indeed been wronged can say sincerely, “I forgive you,” he can find that a great weight has been lifted (even if the offender isn’t actually sorry!). This healing is to become a journey to true holiness that leads through life to eternal life in God.
During this Lent, our Family Rosary team invites you to join on this great journey of Reconciliation, particularly after two years of Covid. So much has happened in our lives. Some of it good: many families have grown closer and many people have decided to live more intentionally for what is truly important. At the same time, for many this has been a trying time in so many ways. There’s hope for turning the Covid crisis around now, after a lot of hardship. During Lent can we understand how our Christian hope can help us gather it all together in God’s call to be reconciled and move forward with courage? We can see the hardships of the past couple of years as a means through which God is calling us to turn to Him. Trusting in Him, the human community will move out of Covid through unity and solidarity.
Reflecting on this context of our Lenten practice this year, let us note that, in the first place, Lent is the time to prepare for the great annual remembrance of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of the Lord, so that we will be ready to stand at the foot of the Cross with Mary. Christ, both Victim and Priest, sacrifices Himself to the Father for the forgiveness of sins and to open the way to Eternal Life. Mary once more says YES, offering her Son as this Sacrifice of the New and Eternal Covenant. This is our Salvation. This is our true Hope.
During Lent, may trials lived this past year be forged into faith, fortitude, insight, and courage so that we may take our place next to Mary at the Cross. There, we will be participants with her as Christ shows us how He redeems by transforming even suffering into new life. He continues to do so in the life of each of us. He intends to make all things new!
This article is part of the Lent 2022 series, At the Foot of the Cross, hosted by our partner in ministry, FamilyRosary.org. Family Rosary offers many resources to help your family pray, sacrifice, and help others together this Lent. Visit At the Foot of the Cross to access a free printable Lent family activity calendar, plus free ebooks, videos, recipes, and much more.
Copyright 2022 Fr. Jim Phalan, C.S.C.
Images: Holy Cross Family Ministries
About the Author
Father James Phalan, C.S.C., is a Catholic priest, member of the Congregation of Holy Cross and the National Director of Family Rosary. He served as a missionary for many years travelling the globe to help people come to Jesus through Mary as part of the Family Rosary team. Now he is happy to be serving back at home in the USA!