This week we begin the season of Lent. Ash Wednesday is in two days. Lent is a richly-graced time the Church gives us each year to reflect on where we are at in our relationship with God and with each other.
As Catholics, we have been taught to give something up as a penance for these 40 days. We are also encouraged to add some additional prayer and works of mercy. Fasting, prayer, and almsgiving – the big three. Adding in something from each component can make for a meaningful and fruitful Lent. But besides those three, I usually ask the Lord for something else that He wants me to focus on.
This year I sensed Him saying, “Pay attention each day to when and where I show up in your life.”
I was drawn to this passage in Luke 12:35-40:
“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes…You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
“Be like those who are waiting for their master…alert..be ready…”
A couple of months ago, my spiritual director suggested that during my nightly examen, when I review the day in prayer, that I notice when spiritual inspiration came. Then he told me to look at my responsiveness to it: did I notice it, did I cooperate with it, or did I let it fall to the wayside.
So I see this Lenten invitation from the Lord to “pay attention each day to when and where I show up in your life” as a continuation and deepening of that.
In the last line of the passage from Luke, Jesus says, “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” I don’t think He just means at His final coming. I think He is also referring to His repeated coming to us each day. It’s often unexpected and hidden, and He comes disguised. We will miss Him if we aren’t alert and watching for Him.
The face of love
So what do we look for? Let me give you an example.
At our parish where we attend Sunday Mass, there is a woman with intellectual disabilities who comes each week with her parents. She is about 40 years old, but she acts like a young girl. In her eyes, everyone is a friend, and she greets you with a huge, gripping hug and a big smile. At the sign of peace, her parents have to keep an eye on her or she would go to every pew to greet each person if she could.
As I watched her this week go and hug complete strangers with gusto, I suddenly realized I was seeing Jesus in disguise. I heard the Lord say, “She is a sign of how I love all of my children – wholeheartedly and unconditionally.”
This Lent I want to be more attentive to the Lord showing up each day like that and see what He is trying to say through those encounters.
Some of you might be dreading Lent. But instead of just focusing on what you might be depriving yourself of, look and see what new blessings God will bring into your life. There is so much grace swirling around — “where sin abounds, grace abounds even more” (Rom. 5:20).
I’ll be praying for you!