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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

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On our Lenten Journey, let’s reflect on the wisdom of some spiritual giants

On our Lenten Journey, let’s reflect on the wisdom of some spiritual giants

We are about the midpoint in Lent. The following quotations from some spiritual giants of the past and present may inspire us to continue our Lenten spiritual journey.

St. John Chrysostom (349-407) reminds us of the purpose of fasting.

“The fast of Lent has no advantage to us unless it causes our spiritual renewal. It is necessary while fasting to change our whole life and practice virtue. Turning away from all wickedness means keeping our tongue in check, restraining our anger, avoiding all gossip, lying and swearing. To abstain from these things – herein lies the true value of the fast.”

Pope Francis tells us, “Lent is the time to start breathing again. It is the time to open our hearts to the breath of the One capable of turning our dust into humanity. It is not the time to rend our garments before the evil all around us, but instead to make room in our life for all the good we can do. It is a time to set aside everything that isolates us, encloses us and paralyzes us. Lent is a time of compassion.”

Spiritual writer Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) talks about our need to be alone.

“We are afraid of emptiness . . . We like to occupy, fill every empty time and space. We want to be occupied, and if we are not occupied, we easily become preoccupied; that is, we fill the empty spaces before we have even reached them. We fill them with our worries, saying, ‘But what if . . . ’

“Allowing emptiness to exist in our lives is very hard. Emptiness requires a willingness not to be in control, a willingness to let something new and unexpected happen. It requires trust, surrender, and openness to guidance. God wants to dwell in our emptiness. Yet if we are afraid of God and God’s actions in our lives, it is unlikely that we will offer our emptiness to God. Let’s pray that we can let go of our fear of God and embrace God as the source of all love.”

This emptiness may be the solitude God is calling us into so that we can hear the stillness of his voice in the midst of our busyness. Lent is a time to enter into this emptiness with God. Our need to have our life full of activity could be a sign that we are trying to find our identity not within us but outside us in the things we do.

If we believe that we share in God’s divine life within us, that we are temples of the Holy Spirit, then we need to spend quality time alone with the Lord who is both outside but most importantly within us.

St. Charles Borromeo (1538-1584) says a similar thing.

“If a tiny spark of God’s love already burns within you, do not expose it to the wind, for it may get blown out . . . Stay quiet with God. Do not spend your time in useless chatter . . . Do not give yourself to others so completely that you have nothing left for yourself.”

St. Francis of Paola (1416-1507) tells us: “Put aside your hatred and animosity. Take pains to refrain from sharp words. If they escape your lips, do not be ashamed to let your lips produce the remedy, since they have caused the wounds. Pardon one another so that later you will not remember the injury. The recollection of an injury is itself wrong. It adds to our anger, nurtures our sin and hates what is good. It is a rusty arrow and poison for the soul and puts all virtue to flight.”

Thomas Merton (1916-1968) tells us how to be a loving person.

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”