Today we begin the sacred season of Lent. Let has always been a time to begin anew. I had the opportunity today to help the friars distribute ashes to mark this solemn occasion of which the Church calls each of us to intensify our prayer life, our fasting from things that we really do not need, and our charity toward others in the gift of almsgiving. To start over once again and to find ways we can seek that will help us become better versions of ourselves in a world that desperately needs our love and compassion.
When we begin something new, we try our best to make sure with whatever we begin, we also hope that it will have a positive outcome when we are finished with the task.
In all my years as a religious, I always wanted to “take up” instead of “giving up” for Lent. We know that that the Church asked us to intensify our prayer life, our almsgiving, and our fasting, all those gifts are especially important, but, at the same time, we need to have the right intentions to create for ourselves a Lent that will be fruitful and joyous as we journey to Holy Easter.
The question I ask is what is Easter to you and for me? Easter for me is a time of great rejoicing, that Jesus conquers death and was raised to eternal life. I ask myself, “what is it in my own daily life that needs to be put to death” for me to live the resurrection of Jesus Christ?
This past year during the pandemic I have experienced a great deal of suffering knowing many people who have endured death, many people I have known those who have survived the experience of losing family and friends from this dreadful illness. I feel so sad for them, and yet from each of them, I have personally gained an inner surrender of the love of Jesus who asks us daily to take up our cross and to follow him, no matter what. Jesus is always walking with us in all our joys and sadness. So, what is it about Lent for me to come to understand the Easter I need to continue in my own personal life?
I need to love more and to bring the gospel to others as Jesus has brought it to me! I am a person that sometimes finds it hard to accept pain and suffering. As Fire Chaplain, I have seen firsthand what love and suffering mean for people who each daycare for others. This past week, our firefighters here in Joliet, have offered their love and care to volunteer to give vaccinations to those in need. What a perfect way to love and serve others in times of necessity.
I am blessed to have such wonderful friends in my life who always think of others before themselves. I am faced daily with the face of Jesus in each of them. The firefighters take up a daily cross each time they step inside the ambulance or fire truck, they know they are about to encounter someone’s worse day.
As Jesus walked on his way to his place of crucifixion, he encountered many people that he recognizes, and he gave many people an opportunity to reach out to him one last time before he was placed on the cross for our salvation. We live in a world where we give so much of ourselves, and sometimes, we are not understood or even appreciated for the good things that we do for others. The firefighters each day give witness to this kind of behavior, positive or negative, but they daily continue to serve others no matter what the cost. They in many ways are like the Good Shepherds that watch over their sheep.
If you could look at the Cross of St. Damien, (San Damiano) you see Jesus, and with hands outreach, welcoming all of us into his life, especial us sinners, his eyes look deeply into our souls, that sometimes lack the strength to carry on in life, and Jesus asks us one more time, come and follow me! Today, as we begin our faith journey, may we walk with each other as sinners on the way to salvation. Repent and believe in the Good news, for up till now, we have done nothing. Amen.
Peace and all good,
Brother Ed Arambasich, OFM