It is never a pleasant experience to examine how I fall into the trap of "individualism" that is caught up in our nation's bragging of "independence." It means looking at the ways I sort of abandon God, in attempting to be "me."
It is also painful to watch how our nation has slipped back into "nationalism." Walling ourselves into a stance that we are better than any other nation or society. It means I must admit my own role in this, and listening to how all-encompassing it really means when I say "Christian."
Thomas Merton has a strong statement to consider this Lenten time:
'If individualism... [is] so widely suspect among us, there is perhaps a very good reason for it. We live in a climate of individualism. But our individualism is in decay. Our tradition of freedom which, as a matter of fact, is rooted in a deeply Christian soil, and which in itself is worthy of the highest respect and loyalty, has begun to lose its genuine vitality. It is becoming more and more a verbal convention rather than a spiritual conviction. The tendency to substitute words about freedom for the reality of freedom itself has brought us to a state of ambivalent spiritual servitude. The noise with which we protest our love of freedom tends to be proportionate to our actual fear of genuine freedom, and our guilt at our unconscious refusal to pay the price of freedom.' [Seasons of Celebration]
The Pope remembers the poor man of Assisi as a “man of peace” who exhorted his brothers to greet people as Jesus had asked: “May the Lord give you peace.” Saint Francis, the Pope wrote, understood with his heart that all things were created by one Creator, who alone is good, and that “all people have a common Father in Him.”
As winter fades, perhaps just a bit, we see trees beginning to blossom and green. This Sunday's Gospel reminds us, "A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit."
Ash Wednesday is in a few days. What sorts of pruning are you wanting to do this Lent? What do you need to enrich your soil?
Trappist monk Thomas Merton wrote:
'Even the darkest moments of the liturgy are filled with joy, and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten fast, is a day of happiness, a Christian feast. It cannot be otherwise, as it forms part of the great Easter cycle.
'The Paschal Mystery is above all the mystery of life in which the Church, by celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ, enters into the Kingdom of Life which He has established once for all by His definitive victory over sin and death. We must remember the original meaning of Lent, as the "ver sacrum," the Church's "holy spring" in which the catechumens were prepared for their baptism, and public penitents were made ready by penance for their restoration to the sacramental life in a communion with the rest of the Church. Lent is then not a season of punishment so much as one of healing.'
[Thomas Merton, Seasons of Celebration]
In what ways can you make this Lent a "season of celebration"? ... See MoreSee Less