Sherry Antonetti is a freelance writer, blogger and published author of The Book of Helen. She lives just outside of Washington, DC with her husband and their ten children.
In the adoration chapel I frequent, there’s a book about the “Bishop of the Abandoned Tabernacle.” One of the most moving passages is when the not-yet-saint considers fleeing his assignment after finding the church in disarray. As he turned away from the ill-kept sanctuary, where the Holy Eucharist lay surrounded by cobwebs and dirt and evidence of neglect, he felt the presence of Someone looking at him “in desperate need of a friend.” It was Jesus calling out to Saint Manuel González García, inviting him to friendship.
When we come to adoration, it is Jesus looking at us, inviting us into friendship.
How do we know if we are in fact accepting Jesus’ invitation? Jesus tell us, “You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends…” and that “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” So, are we doing as God commands? Are we loving one another as Jesus has loved us? Are we laying down our lives?
Lent is the season for taking stock, for looking at where we are not going about the business of loving one another as God has loved us.
Friends listen to each other. Are we talking to Jesus every day? Not simply praying, but entering into prayer. Are we speaking our own hearts to God, and offering them to him on a daily basis?
Are we listening to Jesus? The scripture is alive, and if we want to hear Jesus’ words, they are there on the page, waiting for us. Jesus says, “I thirst.” And it is for us. He tells us to come to him and he will give us the living water. So drink of the Scriptures, to hear His heart.
Are we loving our neighbor as ourselves? Who are we not serving? When are we refusing to serve? How are we refusing to serve? Fasting helps us find our attachments, where we put something before God, via sins of indulgence of our wills and/or neglect of God’s. If we’re not doing well on our fasting, it may show us either our need for humility — without God, we can do nothing, or our lack of seriousness. Are we making ourselves slaves when we should be both servants and friends?
The whole purpose of Lent is conversion of the heart — so return to your objective, or if you haven’t been able to make it work, begin again with mini-fasts. Offer up little things. Write them down each day, and write a reflection at the end of the day on what that fasting revealed to you.
Lastly, the final prescription of Lent is to give alms. To give because it is good for us to be generous, as our Heavenly Father is generous, to provide for those who do not have, so that they and we will know God’s love more abundantly, by sharing of our own abundance to the point of lavishness. If you have not given something of your lives, of your talent or treasure yet this Lent, begin. Throw open your closet and your pantry and your heart, and bring an offering to Jesus, so that the naked are clothed, the hungry are fed, and the needy receive. We all know that the poor and suffering are Christ in distressing disguise. So we must be Christ to the world, revealed. It will be by the actions of those who live out the spiritual and corporeal acts of mercy that the veil between Heaven and Earth is pierced, and those who receive our gifts in this spirit, will also then see Christ in our actions, because of our hearts.
It is when Christ is revealed that we will know we’re acting in friendship. If our acts bring about what Christ brings about whenever we allow him into our hearts — healing and abundant peace, joy and relief beyond what can be found in mere food or mere physical comforts — we’ll know that we’ve brought Christ to others.
It is then we will know, at least for that moment in our lives, we are imitating the saints — and like Bishop Manuel González García, responding to Christ’s call to our hearts for friendship, with a “Yes.”