Our family was lucky to be able to spend the first few days of Lent in our nation’s capital. Washington DC is a great place to focus on the greatness of our nation, to immerse ourselves in history, and to remind us all of the values that Americans hold dear.
When we arrived at the National Mall, my husband – a true patriot and lover of history – went quickly into tour guide mode. Joe brought the city alive for our girls, especially Ellie on her first visit there. He helped to give meaning and focus to everything we saw. One of his comments really struck home with me and brought my mind to the meaning of our season of Lent.
We were walking to the Smithsonian and Joe instructed the girls to look up. He had them take in the buildings and monuments around them and then asked what their impression was. He led the conversation to the beauty, strength and power of the architecture and to the fact that everything in our sight had been created to demonstrate what a tremendous nation we are proud to call our own. He explained that the architecture and skyline of Washington DC represents the beauty, strength, and power of the entire United States of America.
Back in our military accommodations that night, we turned on the local news and found that due to the 4” of snow that blanketed the area, pretty much everything was closed down: schools, transportation, businesses, and government offices alike. This continued for two more days. Another dusting of snow (a bit of a joke for us New Englanders who are currently in the midst of Snowmageddon!) and bitter cold temperatures all but paralyzed this major metropolitan area. No matter the strength and power of our nation’s capital, the power of Creation could bring it to its knees – a reminder than man is man, and it is God who is truly in control.
Lent is a time to reflect on this very thing. A time to remind ourselves of our own humanness, of our place in Creation. On Ash Wednesday we hear that we are dust and to dust we will return. That liturgy leads us straight into the rest of this season in which we are called to examine our lives, to make sure that our focus is on loving God and serving His people. Lent is a time to remember that we are not in control. Just like snow and freezing temperatures can cause one of the most power-filled cities in the world to stop and take notice, Lent does the same for each of us.
So my friends, now is the time to pause and make sure that we are approaching our lives with God at the center. A time to be sure that the daily choices we make help us to look beyond ourselves. Lent helps us to focus on our relationship with God and with others, especially those most in need. Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving (the three pillars of Lent) help us to do just that.
At this month’s LIGHT Gatherings, we will use interactive centers to explore each of these three pillars. I look forward to seeing you there.
Last month at LIGHT we took a hard look at Ordinary Time and found that it is the season of the year when we get to know Jesus better through the Gospel readings that we hear at Mass. We learn about his life and ministry through the eyes of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. These three evangelizers help us to know Jesus (who is the Light) from all different angles, and as we concluded, we must know the Light of Jesus in order to be a Light for others. Well, I am so proud to say that during this past week, our MidSacrament kids were the Light for many!
This year’s Soup-a-Bowl was a success. We raised $500 for the McAuley House to help them fight hunger in our local area. But the success reached much further than that. Our kids learned that they are part of a bigger picture. They explored how far reaching hunger is, but also how close it is to them.
That is a great outcome, but I saw more than that in our Parish Hall during our two days of service. I saw kids being a part of our parish community. They didn’t stand around idle. I was asked multiple times each minute, ‘What can I do?’ They wanted to work. They wanted to participate. They wanted to do their part. And they did it very well.
Our kids hunger to help, to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and that is exactly what parish life is all about. Jesus founded this church on a foundation of community. We are meant to live and work with others. This is how we are able to be the Light for others. Giving our kids opportunities to do this is a gift that they shouldn’t be denied.
As parents, we work so hard to give our kids good experiences: on sports teams, in school clubs, through the arts, by being involved in our neighborhoods and community life. These opportunities offer a lot in the way of friendship, of learning discipline, of service to others, and of being a part of something bigger than ourselves. They are of tremendous value to our kids and to our families. But at the end of the day, these groups are fleeting.
Involvement in parish life goes deeper and is much further reaching. It has permanence. It too offers a lot in the way of friendship, of learning discipline, of service to others, and of being a part of something bigger than ourselves. But it does more. Kids who know the value of being a part of a church community will always have a home, no matter where they go. They will know how to interact with people of all ages. They will understand their place in the world, the bigger picture, how they are called to serve others as Jesus did. And they will recognize that they are not alone when they do.
Thank you MidSacrament parents for helping your kids to take part in parish life this weekend! You gave them a tremendous gift. They learned a lot about hunger and they took action. They played an active role in a church event and they experienced how they can contribute to parish life. They learned more about the Light and they were the Light!!
They lived Ordinary Time very well!