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Allow God to bring the image of Jesus to you

Fr. Richard Warner | Thursday, March 23, 2006

Now that we have returned from a restful spring break and a chance to be with family and friends, it is important for us to (re)turn our minds to the Lenten season. Lenten resolutions are not like New Year’s resolutions, which we may or may not take seriously and quickly set aside. It is easier for all of us to be mindful of Lent when we are on Campus, and our life takes on a certain predictable rhythm. That is one of the reasons I halfway in jest refer the first Sunday back after break as “Ash Sunday,” even if there is no distribution of ashes.

In my favorite preface for the Mass, that of Lent one, both a beautiful description of Lent and the role it plays in our lives are beautifully expressed: “You give us this joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the pascal mystery with mind and heart renewed.” And it goes on to make this powerful statement and promise: “As we recall the great events that gave us new life in Christ, you bring the image of your son to perfection within us.”

The reason for our lives as Christians is to know and love God and to love and serve our neighbor. The Gospel is filled with examples from the life of Christ as to how we can do this.

Our love for God grows stronger and becomes real when we spend time with God in prayer, whether at Mass, at the Grotto, by praying the rosary, by reading the Mass texts for the day or the Bible, through a few moments before the Blessed Sacrament, by a reflective walk around the lake, through a conversation with a friend, by spiritual reading or in many other avenues which are available to us. All of these ways have been used by generations of faithful believers who have gone before us and who have become holy men and women as their love for God deepened and became a more central part of their day and of their lives. To deepen our love for God, we increase the amount of time we spend in prayer to the extent that we can and in ways that we find helpful.

We love and serve our neighbor through sharing of time with those in need through service and by sharing our material possessions with the poor. Jesus never turned his back on anyone who was poor or came to him in need. During Lent, we try to be more aware of others so that we can be friends to the poor even as Jesus was. By making additional small sacrifices – the things we “give up for Lent” – we share our resources with those neighbors of ours who are most in need of our help.

But there is an additional challenge during Lent. As we try to increase our love for God, it is important for us to become as aware as we can of God’s love for us. This love is deeply personal, it is present to us in all the circumstances of our lives no matter where our lives lead us or what joys, sorrows and challenges we have to face. When we achieve even a little insight into God’s love for us we experience the deep peace that only a person who is redeemed and forgiven can feel.

It is much easier to speak of God’s love for us than it is to really believe it. We are constantly surrounded by the air we breathe and rarely advert to it. In much the same way, we are always surrounded by God’s intense love for us whether we think about it or not. To paraphrase the Scriptures, God sees and loves in us what God sees and loves in His own Jesus.

And so as we continue our Lenten journeys during this season of grace, let us be grateful for this image of Jesus which is being brought about within us.

Father Richard Warner is the director of Campus Ministry. He can be reached at Warner.2@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.