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April 4, 2012

Embraced by Lent: Where Do We Go from Here? "Truly this Man was the Son of God"

As we began our Lenten Retreat together, I invited each of us to attempt to do the following: STOP! BREATHE! LISTEN! FORGIVE! LOVE YOURSELF! LOVE GOD! LOVE OTHERS! Whether we accomplished all, some, one or even none of the above, it’s OK. We can always begin again tomorrow.
 
(Click here for complete readings. Audio option. Courtesy, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.)
 
The overwhelming message of Lent is HOPE. We trust not in our own abilities to save ourselves, because without God, that is impossible. We trust and we believe, that through the Paschal Mystery — the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ — that our salvation has already been accomplished.
 
As Jesus hung upon the cross, those witnessing this drama unfold would be touched in many ways. The Temple leaders would go away satisfied and perhaps a little smug. His mother and Mary Magdalene and the disciple whom he loved, would stand watching, waiting, confused and in shock. The other disciples had abandoned him and in the end, even Jesus wondered out loud, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani? … My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”(Mark 15:34)
 
“When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”(Mark 15:39)
 
The centurion’s job was to make sure the death sentence had been carried out; it probably wasn’t his first or his last execution. However, something was different about this one. What did he see in this Jesus of Nazareth that he might not have seen in so many other executions? We will really never know the answer. I can only speculate.
 
Along the way he saw a supreme dignity beneath the dirt and blood and spit-covered Jesus. No doubt he had heard about the miracles, the healings, the preaching of Jesus. Perhaps as Jesus walked the road to Calvary this centurion walked his own journey, from disbelief to belief, from lack of faith to faith.
 
Ultimately we all walk this similar journey, for some the road is easy, for others painful, crooked and difficult to the last. Whatever the journey, whatever the road, we must never lose sight of HOPE.
 
A struggling economy, a debilitating illness, the loss of a job, a home, our livelihood, the alienation of family or friends, the death of a loved one, are all crosses that most of us will often carry throughout our lifetimes. We struggle, we fall, we might even be tempted to stay down, but we don’t. We get up again and again and again.
 
We are people of the promise; we are daughters and sons of a loving and generous God who has loved us beyond all of our wildest imaginings. The new liturgy reminds us that we are “co-heirs with Christ.” The journey of Lent reminds us that in spite of ourselves, in spite of our woundedness and brokenness, and even in spite of our moments of unloving, we are called to be an Easter people and so we sing out with voices full of gratitude: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
 
 
 
 
Father James McDonald professed vows as a Redemptorist in 1984 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1990. He is currently stationed at San Alfonso Retreat House in Long Branch, NJ.

 

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More reflections:
Getting Back to Basics: What Lent IS and IS NOT
Slowing Down, Entering the Desert
A New Look at Life — Transfiguration, Wow!
Where Am I With God? Listen.
Where Are We With Ourselves? "Seeing is Believing, Believing is Seeing"
Where Are We With One Another? "Sir, we would like to see Jesus."
 

 

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Two thousand years ago Jesus said, “He sent me to preach the Good News to the poor.” Since 1732 the Redemptorists have followed in His footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned. Our congregation of missionary priests and brothers was founded by St. Alphonsus Liguori. Like the first Apostles, our mission—and our joy—is bringing the message of salvation to all people. As Redemptorists, we have a special devotion to crib, cross, Mary, and the Eucharist. To learn more, explore our website and connect with us on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.

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