Written by Ernest Morrell, Ph.D. - Director, Notre Dame Center for Literacy Education
Lent is a special time of year for us Catholics as a community, but it's also a special time for each one of us individually in our own faith journey. I personally love the metaphor of the Lenten journey. For me, it’s a journey on two levels: it's a journey inward and a journey forward. A journey inward reflecting on our imperfections and how we have fallen short through the year, how we can strengthen ourselves in our walk with God through our fasting and our abstinence, through Ash Wednesday and the times we come together as a community throughout these 46 days. But it's also a journey forward, and to me it's a journey toward the cross, toward Christ. I think Bill said last week in the reflection, “In the cross is our only hope”.
That journey forward to me really grounds—as I’ve matured in my faith—how I think about Lent. When you are early in your faith, you think about the things you give up during Lent: “I’m not eating chocolate, I’m not drinking wine, I’m going to turn off the technology.” It was several years ago in a homily when our pastor said, “Lent is not about what you give up. It’s about what you take on.” I’m giving up the chocolate and the alcohol and those sorts of things as well, but what I’m really thinking about is, “What can I take on this Lent?” This week’s readings really talk about that.
The Gospel begins with “just as Moses lifted up the serpent, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,” and I think about a homily I heard not too long ago saying, “Christ can’t do this alone. What he needs from us is to be lifted up.” In John 3:14-21, we have one of the most famous verses in the Gospels, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him might not perish, but have eternal life.” That’s an important verse, but what really speaks out to me about this week’s readings is this idea of lifting God up and lifting Christ up through our lives. How do we bring light into the world? How do we do that through our actions? How do we do that through our love? How do we do that through how we share the joy of the Gospel? That’s what is really challenging me this Lent. If my life is an advertisement for Christ, what am I advertising? When am I bringing light into darkness? When am I bringing joy into moments of despair? When am I living the Gospel out loud? These are the things that I’ve really been challenging myself to do better this Lenten season.
I work at a campus where there are young people in tremendous pain and despair. We work in schools where our young people and families are experiencing tremendous pain and despair, and what we need to do is love them through the joy of the Gospel. How do we do that if we don’t have that joy inside of ourselves? Lent is a time to light that fire again. As we purify ourselves, as we walk toward the cross, as we reflect on what Christ has done for us and continues to do for us, as we bathe in the joy of the grace of God, we owe it to our faith to be light in the world. I think that’s what we should all challenge ourselves to do in this remaining, back half of Lent. We have a few more Fridays to give up meat, and one more day of fasting and abstinence on Good Friday, but we’ve got the privilege and the honor of living the light that is the risen Christ.