Thursday, March 10, 2011

Archbishop Chaput - This Lent, accept God's love, reflect it to others

From the Denver Catholic Register:

This Lent, accept God's love, reflect it to others

“The first Sunday of the Lenten journey reveals our condition as human beings here on earth. The victorious battle against temptation, the starting point of Jesus’ mission, is an invitation to become aware of our own fragility in order to accept the grace that frees [us] from sin and infuses new strength in Christ—the way, the truth and the life.”

—From Pope Benedict XVI’s Lenten Message for 2011

Lent is a time when God invites all of us as Christians to enter into a deeper relationship with himself. Lent is our pilgrimage to Golgotha, and beyond that, to Easter and eternal life. Jesus came into the world to save us; to show us that our lives have meaning; that God loves us; that despite all our sins, no matter how dark, God treasures us as his sons and daughters; that suffering has meaning; that each person no matter how broken or disabled has dignity; and that death is never the end of who we are.

Each of us is born with an ache for “something more.” We all have an inherent hunger for happiness, but we can’t be happy alone. We were made for friendship with one another, and for communion with our Creator.

On the other hand, all of us are selfish. Each of us is a sinner. Again and again, despite our best intentions, we make wrong choices, do bad things and hurt those we love. And on the heels of our personal failures always comes the temptation to despair of ever really changing. We’re tempted to shrug off holiness as a “good idea” that just doesn’t work.

Catholics should know better because we have the example of the saints. The more deeply we know the stories of the saints, the better we realize that most of them were very much like us. They were ordinary people who slowly made a habit of remembering the meaning of their baptism; of making the right choices and doing good actions. Day by day, they wove extraordinary lives out of ordinary material.

With God’s help, we can do the same. The fasting, prayer, almsgiving and mortifications of the Lenten season have a very important purpose: they help us to rediscover the meaning of our own baptism and to clear our soul of debris. They cut away the selfishness that obstructs our view of God and blocks his light from us. As Scripture says, in denying ourselves we find ourselves—because we’re incomplete and restless, we’re not fully ourselves, without God.

Lent is an invitation to dethrone the distractions that keep our hearts restless and empty. If we make room for the real King, he’ll do much more than fill the space. He’ll make us what he intended us to be: saints. We need to approach this Lent not as a burden, but as a second chance, a joy, a way of refocusing ourselves on the one thing that really does matter eternally—friendship with God.

For each of us, there’s no better place to begin or renew that friendship than in the confessional. As Pope Benedict reminds us this Lent, these weeks before Easter are the ideal time “to recognize our weakness and to accept, through a sincere inventory of our life, the renewing grace of the sacrament of penance, and walk resolutely toward Christ.” God’s love for his people is the one love that does not and cannot fail. Lent is our moment to turn toward that love, to accept it, and begin by our witness to reflect it to others.

Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M., Cap. is the Archbishop of Denver.

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