Not many days from now, on February 22, the holy season of Lent will once again dwell upon us...Ash Wednesday.
The events that preceded the death and resurrection of our dear Lord Jesus Christ will come upon us yet again; the Via Dolorosa...way of the Cross. It is a season of gratitude.
This is yet another opportunity, graced upon us, to examine our own life, our journey...to determine those parts of us that need to die...parts we must let go...grudges, fears, laziness, resentments, old habits, etc...a time for us to repent.
As I begin to jot down the above reflection, my thoughts rushed back to last weekend when I visited a terminally ill colleague. He has been journeying or rather; crawling through life...battling and hanging on to whatever bits of life that remains in him; with Stage IV nasal cancer...which of late has spread to parts of his body...now both his kidneys seem to be failing him. His breaths are short and much weight has been lost. Time seem to stand still...
Yes, cancer is such a cruel disease...created by mankind...it does not choose...it does not warn the victim. Cancer brings so much silent pain for the parent and family, but even much more hopelessness for the innocent victim. Does God punish us? How can one find faith and hope under such circumstances?
The seconds become minutes, the minutes spill into hours, the hours into days, days turn into weeks, into months, into years...into eternity... What simple words of comfort does one offer such a friend? The journey towards Golgotha seem endless...
Encouragement, strength, courage, a touch, a hug, a smile...most of all one’s humble presence...only the sacred silence where both human spirit simply and quietly reach out to bond as one creation... through Him, with Him, in Him but ever most of all, loved and cherished by God...no matter how far we have drifted or turned away, no matter how broken our bodies have become...God will always love you!
My dear friend would surely swap his condition, just lying on the hospital bed, waiting...for the good health that most of us able-bodied take for granted day in and day out. Through our daily actions and worldly pursuits, we display absolutely no gratitude for life...for God!
Such is the hopelessness and regret that is felt when one’s time on earth is almost up...when one’s breath enters into sudden death...not knowing the hour that is to come. Soon the tiredness will be put to rest.
For most of us, who are truly “alive”, do we actually realize and cherish life as a gift? Are we conscious of our “alive-ness”?
Or, are we simply more distracted by how this “gift of life” is packaged? Whether we have this or that, whether we are born into a rich and wealthy family, so many whether and what ifs.
The more that we come to the realization (and this is not simple) that life is freely gifted from God, the more our life will be a life of faith and spirituality; a life where we come to know God, where we journey in relationship with Him...where God becomes real in our lives.
As truly simple pilgrims through this life, the meaning of our short pilgrimage on earth must not depend on reaching any particular destination, accumulating a certain level of material wealth or striving to achieve any worldly goal...the world label this as success.
Very simply, it should instead depend on our humbleness, simplicity, openness, faithfulness, hope and trust...that God knows the way far better than we do – He will lead us, if we just let Him. He will love us, if only we allow Him.
However, as prideful as we all are, in our entire majestic ego, we become impatient, restless, we seize control, we want control, we want worldly assurance...we want to become powerful in the eyes of the world. In the course of this mad obsession, we put layers after layers upon us, until we lose our simple identity; we forget our humble roots, becoming deaf to the call to discipleship, blind to others, mute to sharing the goodness of God, losing our sense of direction...becoming out-of-touch with God.
This Lent, we must come back to the Gospel...diligently journey the Via Dolorosa with Jesus...He will surely give us hope, He will bring us home. Trust Him with your entire life. This is the best investment one can make...with guaranteed returns!
Hope does not pretend that everything will be alright. Hope simply means knowing that Jesus will sustain us and walk with us...as our faithful companion. As I mentioned to someone recently, my simple view is that “God is good ALL the time.”
It is almost certainly the selfish acts of mankind, with its egoistic human condition, that causes chaos all around and subsequently, having to face drastic consequences of such actions...both from the past, but most of the time, changing the course of many generations into the future.
As I reflect on the Apostolic Letter entitled, “Motu Proprio Data” of the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI for the indiction of the Year of Faith which is due to begin on October 11, 2012 to November 24, 2013, I am reminded that the “door of faith” (Acts 14:27) is always open for each one of us.
“We must rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves on the Word of God faithfully handed down by the Church, and on the bread of life, offered as sustenance for his disciples.”
The life of Christians, as pointed out in this simple Apostolic Letter, knows the experience of joy as well as the experience of suffering.
This short papal letter moves on to remind each one of us that what the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people, like you and me, enlightened in both mind and heart by the Word of the Lord, and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life...a life without end...a life that is journeyed with the hope of the resurrection...a journey travelled with Jesus as an Easter people.
As such, the trials of this short and finite life, while helping us to understand the mystery of the Cross and to participate in the sufferings of Christ, are a prelude to the joy and hope to which simple faith ultimately leads to.
Next week, beginning Ash Wednesday, onwards into the coming holy season of Lent, let us commit, discipline and entrust ourselves to the Lord Jesus, who is and will always walk beside us as our faithful Companion, as He always knows what we need and most of all, what is best for us.
Wishing one and all across the world, a holy and healing season of Lent, coupled with a meaningful Via Dolorosa with Jesus...towards the door of faith... May the hands of the Lord touch your hearts in a way that will move you ever closer to Him. Amen.