Our Lenten Strategy

February 7, 2021

Our Gospel today invites us to follow the rhythm of life found in the journey of Jesus.  We find this balance in the reading proclaimed this weekend of Jesus acting upon and responding to the needs of family and friends.  He immediately reaches out to Simon’s mother-in-law and helps her up after healing her from a fever.  He moves outside the door where others gather that night.  He blesses them, He expels demons, and He walks among them and brings hope.  Early the next morning, He is off by Himself to pray.  This balance between the actions of ministry and the reflection upon it in prayer is an excellent strategy for Lent.  As followers of Jesus, we are to not only be about action and involved in ministry, but we are to take those moments and reflect on them, meditate on them, and contemplate what they mean for us.

As I enter Lent, I am keenly aware of the need not only to be a part of the action and activity of ministry but to also bring into prayer a reflection of what just happened and how God moved in those moments, treasuring them and cherishing them.  With all of the COVID restrictions, I have found it easy this past year to get into a disciplined routine.  After visiting a home for an anointing or going to the hospital when I am allowed, I return to my car to sanitize my hands and wipe things down.  Upon my return home I put the clothes in the washing machine and proceed through a sanitizing protocol.  After all of this is complete, I try to head up to the chapel in the rectory.  It is a time to be drawn into a reflection of seeing the faith of others’ hunger and thirst for God’s sacramental grace.

After Mass on the weekends, the same routine has been my discipline.  Until I reflect on what I experienced, until I reflect on God’s goodness until I allow myself to be drawn into the embrace of how God has lifted up another do I find myself scratching the surface of what just took place.  Action and contemplation, activity and reflection on that activity is a pathway to a deepening awareness of God at work in our lives.

This Lent will be like no other.  We enter with restrictions, yet God enters as God who is never changing and always present, longing for union with us.  When we can contemplate the interconnection of the divine breath of His love with our finite brains and broken emotions, with our sinful attitudes and devastating self-righteous tones, it is then that true meditation can occur. It is then that a true reflection of the magnitude of God’s goodness can overcome our obstacles to grace.  In this rhythm of activity and reflection and the back and forth of its movements, we are invited to move and forge ahead with balance.  To only have a strategy of action will fill up our time, yet might not lead us to how deeply God’s love can be present.  To only have a strategy of more prayer time, meditation and reflection can lead us to a neglect of the ministerial opportunities God longs for us to participate in.  Both extremes bring barriers.  This year may we find the ebb and flow of a God willing to offer us The Way, The Truth and new Life in Him.

As this Lent begins, may it find us reclaiming being claimed by God.

Father John Ouper