Lent – a Time for Reflection
LENT: time in the desert for reflection, examination of one’s heart, becoming more conscious of personal sin, and a time for doing penance, all in preparation to celebrate joyfully at Easter our trust in Jesus’ promise of fullness of life in His Resurrection .
When I was eighteen and entering the Jesuits I figured that in a couple of years I’d have this ‘sin thing’ licked. But after many decades, over five in fact, here I am still a work in progress. Through those years it seems that it was easy to keep the ‘working on it’ slow, kind of on the back burner as ministry and work, ‘keeping my nose just above water’, absorbed most of my concern and energy.
But my consciousness of my sinfulness has changed during the past few years. Perhaps one reason for that is a heightened realization of my mortality– being over three quarters of a century old! The odds are I don’t have a lot of earthly time left.
But it is more than that. Being appointed a pastor four years ago has meant meeting people in a different way. People look at me with faith in their eyes whether at Baptisms, reconciliation, receiving the Eucharist, celebrating the Mass, or at the anointing of the sick.
In my first days as pastor I was embarrassed when people leaving Mass would stoop and kiss my hand. I have come to the realization that in all these encounters people are not reverencing me but rather the true celebrant of all the sacraments, Jesus. They see Jesus in me.
And so since becoming pastor of a parish there has been a change in my consciousness of my own sins and their relationship to my community, my parishioners. Perhaps part of it is the result of celebrating regularly the sacrament of reconciliation and experiencing my flock’s struggle with sin.
But I am more conscious how important it is for them that I keep myself as sinless as possible, that somehow, my integrity of life as pastor has a direct link to the well being of my flock, that it is terribly important to their spiritual health that I tangibly and ardently strive to keep my own sin at bay whether in words spoken or not spoken, actions carried out or neglected, thoughts abandoned or embraced.
It now makes much sense to me how all of us, disciples of Jesus, trying to live the light/life we received at baptism, have a direct effect on those around us through our striving to be sinless. With the realization that any sinfulness on one’s part erodes and undermines the body of Christ, and for me, especially those for whom I was named pastor, the pressure is on to be more like Jesus in thought, word, and action, namely, sinless.