The mention of Mardi Gras in a way heralds the start of Lent, a somber period of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, enveloped in purple. Joel’s call (2:12) to return to the Lord, tempts us to view Lent as a rather dark time, when we try to repent and practice self-denial.
Yet, Lent, if properly embraced, offers us a taste of God’s mercy and goodness. Jesus is inviting us to change our hearts, in order to be filled with divine life.
Recently, I listened to someone share a painful experience of being locked out, after doing the music ministry in the church for many, many years, due to ongoing politics. She suddenly lost the ability to sing, because she believed the lie that she was not good. It crippled her to the point that she stayed in the safety of her boat for years, until she once again heard Jesus’s call, “Come, follow me.”
Reflecting on Jesus’ invitation to the fishermen Simon, Andrew, James and John in (Mark 1:14-20) to follow him, and their immediate response to do so, revealed something profound to her. They had no clue of what lay ahead of them. If they did, they may not have abandoned their trade to follow an itinerant preacher.
Discipleship is undoubtedly costly. With this epiphany, she who previously did not want to rock the boat, now stepped out bravely. The chains that bound her were broken, and her singing voice returned reflecting the glory of God!
This Lent I am being invited by Jesus to “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:4). I am no Peter, yet in humble obedience, I pray for the grace to do what God is calling me to do. Here is an opportunity to encounter Jesus in a deeper way by repenting, and willingly surrendering my life to him.
So, I repeatedly say the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner,” like Peter, who when he saw the large catch of fish “fell at the knees of Jesus and said, ‘Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” (Luke 5:8)
This reminds me, that when Pope Francis was asked, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” he humbly replied, “The best summary, the one that comes more from the inside and I feel most true is: I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.”
I realize that when Jesus calls, he has a mission for me. He does want me to be his ambassador. As St. Teresa of Avila wrote, “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours.”
At the start of Lent, I invite Jesus into my boat, so that I can receive the grace to move out of my comfortable position, and reach out to those who are lost, hurting, alone, and mourning the loss of a loved one. I remind myself that I just have to have an open, trusting heart.
The little sacrifices I make may draw someone closer to God. Joyce Rupp says, “Lent is a time to clear away the cultural debris that disorients me on the Christian walk. The Lenten acts of deprivation I choose are of little value unless they help my mind and heart to be more attentive and focused on one thing only: to walk the gospel message – to love as Jesus loved. All else is secondary.”
I take the hand of Peter as my traveling companion on this Lenten journey. He literally and figuratively walked the road that Jesus did. That was because he got out of his boat, left his nets, and set out on a journey that would take him from Galilee all the way to Rome.
He will help me how to respond when I stumble and fall along the way, by showing me how to pick myself up, and stay close to Jesus, by trusting his call, “Come, Follow Me.”