Hope in the Lord — Lent, a formation of the heart

Arzobispo Joseph E. Kurtz

Arzobispo Joseph E. Kurtz

On this year’s Mardi Gras, the eve of Ash Wednesday, most of us were snowed-in, and I had time to create my Lenten budget.

Heeding Jesus’ three-fold call for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, I believe that setting aside an amount to donate to good causes during Lent will keep my mind on task so that my prayer and my fasting (no meat on Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent; no snacking for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday — as well as denial of Diet Coke to keep me aware during the days of Lent) are even more meaningful.

I always remember Rice Bowl and keep my eyes open for the mail requests. It is actually fun to give away money.
Then I re-read this year’s message from Pope Francis for Lent. Quoting Pope Emeritus Benedict, he writes of “a formation of the heart.” (See www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-francis-lenten-message-2015.)

What I really like about this year’s message is that Pope Francis calls us to go out of ourselves — to counter the culture of global indifference, as he often says. My budget seems to fit right in.

However, there are two other challenges to which he calls us. The first is humility. Citing the washing of the feet, which we commemorate on Holy Thursday evening, Pope Francis recalls the first event when Peter, at first, refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet, “… but he came to realize that Jesus does not wish to be just an example of how we should wash one another’s feet. Only those who have first allowed Jesus to wash their own feet can then offer this service to others. Only they have ‘a part’ with him and thus can serve others.”

For Pope Francis, letting Jesus serve means hearing the word of God and receiving the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist. This is why daily Mass during Lent is such a great, time-honored way to walk the path of Lent.

Our Holy Father also speaks of those who want to serve the distant poor and neglect those at our door: “Or do we take refuge in a universal love that would embrace the whole world, while failing to see the Lazarus sitting before our closed doors?” I could not help recall Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’s advice, often given to those wanting to follow her to far off India,
“The poor you are to serve are already at your doorstep!”

This is great advice as we prepare to welcome the World Meeting of Families to Philadelphia this September. You have the opportunity to attend to those within your midst and give them the most precious of gifts: your time. For some, your family is close at hand. For me, I need to make calls and write letters and of course remember those with whom I work each day.

Walking with Jesus through Lent, we touch those who suffer in this world, near and far. We also are joined to heaven. Pope Francis beautifully writes of St. Therese of Lisieux who spoke of heavenly joy and expressed her conviction that the joy in heaven for the victory of crucified love remains incomplete as long as there is still a single man or woman on earth who suffers and cries out in pain: “I trust fully that I shall not remain idle in heaven; my desire is to continue to work for the Church and for souls.”

Quoting from the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Pope Francis asks the Lord: “Fac cor nostrum secundum cor tuum: Make our hearts like Yours.” May these Lenten days be graces to shape our hearts like Christ. Pray, fast, and be generous!

Remember The Men’s Conference

Men, young and old, mark your calendars for Saturday, March 21, at St. Michael Church for the fourth annual Catholic Men’s Conference. This is a great event for fathers and sons to attend together! See this 8-minute YouTube clip from my show, Conversations with Archbishop Kurtz, for more information about the conference.

Women of the archdiocese, plan to be at the first annual Catholic Women’s Conference on Nov. 7, 2015.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz

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