Lent 2016: Parish Bulletin Column

mercy man 3

“Longing for Mercy” Finger Painting, Ronald Raab, CSC

 

Dear Followers of Jesus,

 

At some point in our lives, we long for a second chance. When love seems fleeting, we ache to start over again. When a long-term hurt settles into our hearts with our children, we hope for forgiveness. When we lose our jobs, we want a second chance to prove our capabilities. When we are diagnosed with a disease, we seek a second opinion from a doctor who is a stranger to us.

 

When we make a mistake, we wish we could do anything to eat our hurtful words or go back in time and start over again. In second marriages, the second child, the second career, the second degree, the second job, the second try, the second conversation, the second sobriety, the second dream— all have the potential for us to act differently and to speak new words about our lives, careers and families.

 

In today’s gospel (Luke 13:1-9), the fig tree gets another chance. The tree in the passage, of course, is the cross of Christ, the place where our sin, our loss, our health, our apathy—-all get a second chance. We are redeemed by the Tree of Life.

 

Lent is a fascinating time and sometimes misunderstood. There is something deep within us that believes we are not worthy of God’s love or the mercy that God brings. Some people give up on the Church when waiting for a second chances because seeking an annulment hurts too much or when their gay grandchild is not welcome in the pew on Sunday or when political battle lines seem to grow deeper in the opinions of people who pray on Sunday. Sometimes we do not trust God to give us what we need and often we are not pleased even if he does. So many times we give up on God because our prayers are not answered immediately, in our timelines in the way we think they should be answered. Sometimes a second chance is not healthy, especially when a dating relationship or marriage stems from abuse.

 

Lent is a time when we renew our faith in the dying and rising of Jesus Christ. This is the ultimate second chance for life. This is the central mystery of our faith. This is the core of what we celebrate every Sunday, that suffering gives way to love, that pain can heal, that turmoil leads to compassion, that death gives way to eternal life.

 

This weekend we celebrate the first of the three scrutiny rites for the elect (11:00am Mass), those adults who are preparing for baptism at the Easter Vigil and those preparing to be received into the Church since they are already baptized. These rites get at the destructive aspects of life that keep a second chance from happening, such as sin, doubt, grief, failure, war, poverty, violence, discouragement, a lack of faith and so many more. I invite you to pray this weekend for our adults who are preparing for the second chance of faith in our Roman Catholic Church.

 

I also invite you to deepen your faith in this Lenten season. Sometimes we believe that we do not have a second chance with Jesus because we live in the illusion that we are not worthy or that the Church does not want us around. Sometimes we hold on the hurts of our lives because it is easier to do that than be vulnerable with God or in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Let all of that stuff go, put all of that hurt into God’s hands so that you may experience the mercy that God has for you.

 

I experience “another chance” with God in so many ways. What I have learned from my second chances, is that I have begun to be much more aware of people who seek such new life. I learn from kids who are in their third or fourth foster home and who are still abused. I learn from their desire to be at-home in the skin. I learn from people who have gone through many programs for drug and alcohol addiction and are still not sober. I learn from people who plead with God for their children’ health and I learn from people whose dreams never come true. This is the mission of the Church, to walk with people who long for a new path to Jesus and who just may find it because we have been given new life, a second chance, in God’s mercy for us.

 

Some questions to consider this week:

How have I been weighed down from my fears, my disappointments and my anger?

How has God given me a second chance with my family or job or sin or addiction?

How have I judged people because they have yet to live as we think they should?

How can I be open to God’s mercy in this Lenten season?

 

 

Blessings to you all,

Ron

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