26 February, 2020

An authentic humanity, calling for a new synthesis, seems to dwell in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door.

~ Pope Francis ~

Joel 2:12-18; Psalm 51; 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:20; Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

The readings for Ash Wednesday are powerful. We hear the voice of God in the book of Joel saying to his people, “come back to me with all your heart”. We have turned away from God in our own lives and we too are invited to hear the voice of God, through the Prophet, pleading with us to turn back to him. On our return journey during Lent, we recognise our need of God and our need to be healed. We continue our journey to Easter Sunday, which is the celebration of God’s new life in Christ and in us.

 

This image of stopping, turning around and journeying back to God is a strong one. The Church is often called a pilgrim people, with life as one long journey returning to God who is our Creator.

 

The quotation by Pope Francis – mentioned at the beginning of this reflection – has a different image of how grace works in our lives. It is one of the most poignant images in his encyclical, Laudato Si’, where he is inviting us to consider our lives in the context of our environment. In the encyclical, Francis describes how we have shut the door on what he calls “authentic humanity”, which is humanity as God created it to be. He asks us to notice that the way we are living is destroying the environment, alienating the poor and breaking up the human family. However, in spite of our sinfulness and rejection of our authentic selves, Francis says that what is good and beautiful in human beings seems to always slip under the door, like a fine mist.

 

Instead of thinking of Lent this year as a long and difficult journey that we have to take towards the Divine, perhaps we can use the image that Pope Francis gives us of God’s grace slipping into our lives, like a mist under all the doors we have closed. Lent could then become not a time of stopping and turning around and walking back, but of stopping and surrendering to the God who is already there – waiting for us.

 

Loving God,

 

Help us to surrender to your grace this Lent.

 

Give us a deep knowledge of what authentic humanity is in our lives.

 

Help us to let go of any obstacle keeping us from living the way you intended.

 

Amen.

 

Catholic Parliamentary

Liaison Office

Jesuit Institute
South Africa

This reflection has been adapted from Have Mercy, O Lord! Daily Reflections for Lent by Grant Tungay SJ, Russell Pollitt SJ, Annemarie Paulin-Campbell, Puleng Matsaneng, Anthony Egan SJ and Frances Correia, & published by the Jesuit Institute South Africa in 2016.

Reflection prepared by

Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ

Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ entered the Society of Jesus in 2005 and underwent the usual course of studies in his formation, which took him to such varied places as Canada, France, Ireland, Kenya, Spain, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, the United States, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Whilst working at the Institute, Matthew managed the background technical aspects of much of the Institute's work and was involved in the Spirituality work, completing the Advanced Spiritual Directors Training Course and the Spiritual Exercises Training run by the Institute. He is a member of Spiritual Directors International and was also a part-time lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St Augustine College of South Africa. He is currently the Director of Communications for the Jesuits in Southern Africa, based in Lusaka, Zambia.

m.charlesworth@jesuitinstitute.org.za @mcharlesworth
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