Lent: Time to Empty Oneself

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Dear Parishioners & Visitors,

A newly ordained priest was very excited about celebrating his first season of Lent as a priest. He was preparing the liturgies and homilies very diligently. This priest was serving in the United States but he was from another country. A few days before Ash Wednesday, his mother fell gravely ill. His mother was advanced in age and her health was weak. After some thought, he decided to go back to his country and help his mother hoping to get back soon to the US and celebrate Lent with his parishioners. While the priest was taking care of his mother, things got more complicated. She had a heart attack. The doctors helped her to come back. The doctors spent all night doing procedures on her to keep her alive. Early in the morning, after all the procedures, she was back. At that point, the priest anointed her. The priest realized that he needed to stay with her to help her in her recovery.

The priest spent the whole season of Lent taking care of her, helping her to take care of her basic needs. She recovered some more and the priest was able to return to his parish in the US just in time for Holy Week. Reflecting back, the priest recognized that initially he was disappointed he was not able to celebrate Lent in full as a priest with his parishioners. Nevertheless, taking care of his mother was one of the most meaningful religious experiences he ever had. While he was taking care of his mother he was able to get to know her better and to appreciate what she had done in life for her family, includ­ing her son, the priest. He was also able to be touched by the suffering and vulnerability of elderly people, especially women. Most importantly, through the whole experience, the priest had the opportunity of emptying himself from his own expectations about Lent. He understood that the religious practices are important and that they help us to grow. Nevertheless, Lent is about something deeper, the willingness to empty oneself for the benefit of others. Just as Christ did, "Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for tr1e sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God" (1 Peter 3: 18a). Only then is when Lent becomes a life changing experience.

The Lord gives us opportunities, like the one given to the priest, for us to empty ourselves in our daily lives. The Church invites us to empty oneself for the benefit of others through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. One of the ways our Parish is also giving us that opportunity is by becoming a member of the Saint Vincent de Paul society and volunteering to serve the poor. We heard their invitation last week and we heard how this service is a life changing experience. Please consider this opportunity. Now it is up to us, if this season of Lent is just one more in our lives, or if it is the one season that will change our lives for the rest of our existence. 

-fr. Jorge Rátiva, O.P.