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As we journey into Lent and Easter, let us pray for God to become the subject of our seeing, the One who sees in us. This ability has been given to us through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into our hearts.
 
O radiant light, eternal God,
we pray that you shine on your Church.
Scatter the darkness of our ignorance,
the blindness of our pettiness,
the limits of our self-protecting positions.
 
May Christ be our light shining within us and around us,
inviting us to the heights of Tabor and sustaining us
in the depths of Golgotha.
 
Teach us, Holy Spirit of wisdom,
to embrace the rhythm of light and darkness
that flows from your sustaining grace.
Inflame us with courage and trust
to journey together as beacons of hope
whom you enlighten for the sake of this world
that you love.
 
Lead us, kindly light,
until we reach our journey’s end
and the home of God’s embrace
where we will dwell in triune love
forever and ever. Amen.
 
Excerpted from Lenten Longings – Year C: Seeing With God’s Eyes, available from RENEW International.

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As we begin our journey into Lent and Easter, let us pray for God to become the subject of our seeing, the One who sees in us. This ability has been given to us through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into our hearts.
 
Open us, O Holy Spirit of God. Be yeast in us.
Let our hearts expand to take in more and more of
God’s lavish self-disclosures.
 
Clear away the blocks that hinder us
from seeing you in the events of our past.
Stir up hope in us, O Holy Spirit,
our refuge and our stronghold.
You bear us up in mercy and go before us always
to deliver us from evil’s way.
 
Lead us, gently but persistently,
O loving Spirit of God,
toward those people, places, and events
where you desire most to meet us.
Then, in those choices that invite or confront us,
direct us to choose only those things
that are for the Father’s glory,
and reign in our hearts and in our world.
We pray this in the name of Jesus,
our teacher, brother, and Lord. Amen
 
Excerpted from Lenten Longings – Year C: Seeing With God’s Eyes, available from RENEW International.

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During this Year of Faith, we will blog reflections and stories to accompany you on your faith journey.
 
“God does not look at the caterpillar we are now, but the dazzling butterfly we have in us to become.” -Desmond Tutu
 
A caterpillar, which can only crawl, seems to have limited potential. But as it grows, it renews itself over and over by shedding the skin that can no longer contain it and growing a new one. When it has shed the last confining skin, the caterpillar seems to disappear within a fragile shell but re-emerges in a glorious new life marked by color and flight. From its beginning as a tiny egg, the caterpillar is destined to that new life; everything it does moves it closer to the day when it will spread those colorful wings and, to paraphrase an aviator, slip the bonds of earth and touch the face of God.
 
Bishop Tutu picked the movement of a caterpillar into a butterfly as an analogy for the transformation to which God has called each one of us. Our response to that call is at the heart of the season of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday, February 13. During Lent, the Church encourages us to devote time and attention to the process of conversion in our lives, the process of becoming our best and truest selves, the process of growing beyond the worldly things that burden us and taking flight in the freedom that comes only through friendship with God.
 
This conversion does not happen on one day or during one season of Lent. Although we have moments of insight or elation — and although we may have setbacks — conversion is for most of us a step-by-step movement forward. The goal of this gradual progress is what philosophers such as the Jesuit Bernard Lonergan have called “self-transcendence,” an ability to see the world as bigger than ourselves. This doesn’t mean that we are insignificant in that bigger world; it means that each of us has an indispensible part to play outside of our own pleasures, interests, and concerns.
 
In other words, “self-transcendence” is the opposite of self-absorption, the opposite of going through life thinking only of ourselves, of our own security and convenience and comfort. Although self-absorption is an expression of selfishness, a self-absorbed person isn’t necessarily malicious. On the contrary, a self-absorbed person is just as likely to simply be stuck in place, used to a certain safe routine designed to avoid risk — especially the risk of opening the heart to other people and particularly to people in material or spiritual need; to people who are different from us because of their race, their ethnicity, their religion, or their sexual orientation.
 
That’s where Lent comes in. Lent is an invitation for Christians to ask ourselves if we are stuck in place. As we think about this question, we have a model in Jesus himself whose life was defined by generosity and self-sacrifice, by unconditional love. We become authentic human beings, the human beings God intended us to be, when we imitate that love; Lent is a time to pause and consider how far we have moved toward that ideal, to ask what may stand in our way, and to commit ourselves to taking even modest steps forward.
 
We may pray during Lent; we may attend daily Mass, engage in spiritual reading, participate in works of charity, and practice self-denial. None of these practices is an end in itself, but any of them can help us feel the Spirit of God stirring within us and turn it loose to spread its wings and grace the world.
 
• Reflect on ways in which you are becoming the authentic human being that God intends you to be. What Lenten practices could help you on this path?
 
“Dios no mira a la oruga que somos ahora, sino a la delicada mariposa que se está formando en nosotros”.
 
Una oruga, la cual solo puede arrastrarse, a simple vista parece tener posibilidades limitadas. Pero al tiempo que va creciendo se va renovando a sí misma una y otra vez con cada muda de piel que no la puede contener por más tiempo. Cuando ha mudado la última piel que la atrapa, la oruga parece desaparecer dentro de su frágil concha, pero re-emerge a una gloriosa y nueva vida caracterizada por bellos colores y la habilidad de volar. Desde su principio como un pequeño huevo, la oruga está destinada a una vida nueva; todo lo que hace la acerca cada vez más al día en que podrá extender esas coloridas alas y parafraseando a un aviador, abandona sus límites terrenales y toca el rostro de Dios.
 
El obispo Tutu escogió el paso de una oruga a su conversión en mariposa como una analogía de la transformación a la que Dios llama a cada uno de nosotros. Nuestra respuesta a tal llamada es central a la Cuaresma, que empieza con el Miércoles de Ceniza el 13 de febrero. Durante la Cuaresma, la Iglesia nos anima a dedicar tiempo y atención al proceso de conversión en nuestra vida, al proceso que nos convierte en personas mejores y más auténticas, al proceso de crecer más allá de las cosas mundanas cuyo carga nos impide tomar el vuelo de la libertad que solo podemos encontrar en la amistad con Dios.
 
Esta conversión no se hace en un día o durante una Cuaresma. Aunque tengamos momentos de iluminación o de júbilo –y aunque tengamos tropiezos– la conversión, para la mayoría de nosotros, ocurre paso a paso. La meta de este progreso gradual es la que los filósofos como el jesuita Bernard Lonergan han llamado “la autotrascendencia”, la capacidad de ver el mundo como algo más grande que nosotros mismos. Eso no quiere decir que seamos insignificantes en este mundo más grande; quiere decir que cada uno de nosotros tiene un papel indispensable que jugar aparte de nuestros propios placeres, intereses y preocupaciones.
 
En otras palabras, “la autotrascendencia” es lo opuesto al ensimismamiento, lo opuesto a ir por la vida solamente pensando en nosotros, en nuestra propia seguridad, conveniencia y confort. Aunque el ensimismamiento sea una expresión de egoísmo, una persona ensimismada, no es necesariamente una mala persona. Todo lo contrario, una persona ensimismada es alguien que tal vez esté estancada en el mismo sitio, que no sale de una misma rutina cuyo objetivo es evitar riesgos, especialmente el riesgo de abrir el corazón a otras personas, particularmente a personas con necesidades materiales y espirituales; a personas que sean diferentes por su raza, sus antecedentes étnicos, su religión o su orientación sexual.
 
Ahí es donde entra la Cuaresma. La Cuaresma es una invitación que se nos hace a los cristianos a que nos preguntemos si nos sentimos estancados en el mismo sitio. Al pensar en esta pregunta, tenemos un modelo a seguir en Jesús, cuya vida fue definida por la generosidad, el sacrificio y un amor incondicional. Nos convertimos en auténticos seres humanos, los seres humanos que Dios quiere que seamos, cuando imitamos ese gran amor. La Cuaresma es tiempo de detenerse y reflexionar hasta dónde hemos llegado persiguiendo ese ideal, preguntarnos qué puede estar interfiriendo en nuestro camino, y comprometernos a ir dando pasos, aunque sea modestos, en esa dirección.
 
Podemos rezar durante la Cuaresma; podemos ir a misa diaria, hacer lecturas espirituales, participar en obras de caridad y practicar la abnegación. Ningunas de esas prácticas son un fin en sí, sin embargo cualquiera de ellas puede hacernos sentir el Espíritu de Dios que actúa en nosotros, y liberarlo para desplegar Sus alas y llevar Su gracia al mundo.
 
• Reflexiona sobre las maneras en las que estés convirtiéndote en el ser humano auténtico que Dios quiere que seas. ¿Cuál de las prácticas cuaresmales te puede ayudar en esa senda?
 
Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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“Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:6-11

“Like every believer I know, my search for real life has led me through at least three distinct seasons of faith. Jesus called them finding life, losing life, and finding life again, with the paradoxical promise that finders will be losers while those who lose their lives for his sake will wind up finding them again. You do not have to die to discover the truth of this teaching. You only need to lose track of who you are, or who you thought you were supposed to be, so that you end up lying flat on the dirt floor basement of your heart. Do this, Jesus says, and you will live.” —Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith.

Taylor’s powerful image of “lying flat on the dirt floor basement of your heart” is something each of us can relate to at some point in our lives. As Jesus was tossed into the desert, as we read in the Gospel on the First Sunday of Lent, we too have been thrown into the basement of our hearts by life’s events— whether by the death of a loved one, a diagnosis of life-threatening illness, divorce, depression, or a loss of a job.

We are about to enter the holiest week of the Church’s calendar, an opportunity to journey with Christ from death to new life. This short week sums up our life with Christ, an arduous journey with all its times of finding life, losing life, and finding life again. The liturgy on this Sunday, Palm or Passion Sunday, invites us into Holy Week with Paul’s letter to the Philippians. When Paul invites the Christians at Philippi to welcome Christ as the key to life and death, embedded in his message is a hymn that was already being used by Christians. The central message of this hymn is what we refer to as “the Paschal Mystery.” The word “paschal” is derived from the Greek word meaning “pass over.” At its very heart it is less about events and more about movement: it is about both “from…” and “to…”: from slavery to freedom, from finding life to losing life, from losing life to finding life again.

The liturgies we are about to celebrate are not just commemorations of historical events. They make that once and for all supreme act of love real and present here and now. They pull us into that great movement we call the Paschal Mystery. In these celebrations we go down into the tomb—the dirt basement of our hearts—so that we can arise with Christ to new life.

What strikes you most in the way Jesus approaches his passion and death? What could you do to emulate him?

Good and gracious God,
by the paschal mystery of Christ
you conquered the power of death and opened for us the way to eternal life.
Let our celebration of Holy Week
raise us up and help us find life again
by the power of the Holy Spirit that is within us.
Grant this through Jesus the Christ. Amen

Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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I have always loved the season of Lent. For me, it is a time to refocus on God and get my life in right order. As a child I thought Lent was about giving up things like candy and fighting with my sister, Mary. I have come to realize that it is not so much about giving up things but about seizing the opportunity to be all that God has called me to be—a holy, healthy, and loving person.

So here are five things not to do this Lent:

Don’t give up. Instead of giving up something for Lent, try doing something that will bring you closer to God. Here are some ideas: go to Mass during the week, spend time reflecting on the daily or Sunday readings, experience the beauty of God’s creation by taking walks, make donations to your favorite charities, volunteer at the local food bank, light candles and say prayers for the people you know who are struggling.

Don’t sweat it. Whatever it is you committed to do (or not do) this Lent, the point isn’t to do (or not do) it perfectly. Do it (or don’t do it), but if you don’t do it (or if you do do it), accept it as a reminder that you are not perfect. Only God is perfect. Say a prayer and start again.

Don’t starve yourself. Lent isn’t about going on a diet or losing weight; it’s about the conversion of our hearts. Eat healthy, get some exercise, and don’t succumb to our culture’s obsession with physical appearances.

Don’t make it more difficult than it is. The three pillars of Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Find simple ways to pray, fast, and give to the poor.

Don’t hold back. Lent will present you with many opportunities to convert your heart and your life, to heal broken relationships, and to grow closer to God. When you find yourself presented with such an opportunity, embrace it.

On further reflection, this Lent I should give up fighting with my sister Mary :). The poor woman had to put up with me all these years, borrowing her clothes and touching her stuff—things I still do. Actually, we don’t fight much anymore. I guess we are getting older or maybe wiser. Today we are grateful to have each other.

So this Lent don’t give up, don’t sweat it, don’t starve yourself, don’t make it more difficult than it is, and, most especially, don’t hold back! May you be moved this Lent by a deep desire for a new heart and a new spirit, and may God answer your prayer.

Cinco cosas que no se deben hacer en Cuaresma

Siempre me ha gustado el tiempo de Cuaresma. Para mi es el tiempo para volver a enfocarme en Dios y para poner mi vida en orden. De niña yo pensaba que la época de Cuaresma era para hacer sacrificios, como por ejemplo, no comer dulces y dejar de pelear con mi hermana Mary. Pero me he dado cuenta que la Cuaresma no es solo para hacer sacrificio de dejar de hacer cosas, sino mas bien es el tiempo de buscar la oportunidad de ser todo eso que Dios quiere y me ha llamado que yo sea, una persona santa, saludable y amorosa.

Así que aquí tienen cinco cosas que no se deben hacer en Cuaresma:

No deje de hacer cosas por sacrificio. En vez de dejar de hacer cosas como sacrificio en Cuaresma, trate de hacer cosas que lo acerque más a Dios. Aquí tiene algunas ideas: vaya a Misa durante los días de semana, tome tiempo para reflexionar en las lecturas de la semana y del domingo, salga a caminar y experimente la belleza de la creación de Dios. Mejor aun haga alguna donación a su institución de caridad favorita, hágase voluntaria en su banco de alimento local, encienda una vela y haga oraciones por las personas que usted conoce que están pasando por momentos difíciles.

No jure en vano. Cualquiera que sea la cosa que se comprometió a hacer (o no hacer) en esta Cuaresma, el punto no es hacerla (o dejar de hacerla) perfectamente. Hágala (o no la haga) pero si no la hace (o si la hace) acéptala como un recordatorio de que usted no es perfecto. Solo Dios es perfecto. Haga una oración y empiece todo de nuevo.

No se eche a morir con el ayuno. La Cuaresma no se trata de empezar una dieta, o de perder peso; se trata de la conversión de nuestro corazón. Coma de manera saludable, y haga ejercicios pero no sucumba a la cultura de la obsesión por la apariencia física.

No lo haga más difícil de lo que realmente es. Los tres pilares de la Cuaresma son: la oración, el ayuno y dar limosna. Encuentre pues un modo sencillo de orar, de ayunar y de dar a los pobres.

No se retenga. La época de Cuaresma le presentará muchas oportunidades para convertir su corazón y su vida, a sanar relaciones rotas, y a crecer más cerca de Dios. Cuando usted se encuentre con tales oportunidades, no se retenga, acójalas.

Pensándolo bien, en esta Cuaresma si debo dejar de pelearme con mí hermana Mary. La pobre ha tenido que luchar conmigo por tantos años, tomándole su ropa prestada, y tocando sus pertenencias, cosas que aun hago. En realidad ahora ya no peleamos tanto. Creo que estamos envejeciendo, o quizás ahora tenemos más sabiduría. Hoy por hoy estamos muy agradecidas la una de la otra.

Así que en esta Cuaresma ¡no ofrezca dejar de hacer cosas, no jure en vano, no se eche a morir, no lo haga mas difícil de lo que es, y muy especialmente, no se retenga! Que en esta Cuaresma usted sea movido por un deseo profundo de cambiar su corazón y su espíritu por uno nuevo, y que Dios escuche su oración.

Bendiciones de Cuaresma

Sr. Terry is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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