Household reflections - March 2015

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Lent is a beautiful ‘time of grace’ (2 Cor 6:2), where the predominant image is that of a loving father longing
to embrace us in love and mercy (Lk 15). This love and mercy of the Father becomes tangible to us in the
person of Jesus. St. John succinctly summarizes it in his Gospel: ‘God so loved the world that He gave his
only Son, …’ (3:16). Let us keep alive this image of the loving and merciful father throughout this holy
season of Lent, so that we can immerse ourselves in this ‘time of grace’.

Recently I felt inspired and challenged by Alisa, a teenage girl studying in the 8th grade in our school.
Hailing from an interior village in Assam, she bicycles about 20 km everyday to attend school. Her clarity
of goal (dream) and determination to achieve it inspires me a lot. There are a few vernacular schools in her neighbourhood, but she is convinced that getting educated in an English medium school is necessary for her to achieve her goal. So she voluntarily takes up the pain to cycle for three hours everyday. She is one of the toppers in her class, yet Alisa says that ‘all is God’s grace’.

This outlook of Alisa, a teenager, inspires and challenges me to reflect a little further on the ‘time of grace’.Knowing the several hardships and limitations of the family and the struggle she endures daily, it is elevating to see how she is able to approach life optimistically and see everything in the light of God’s grace/blessing. Her attitude towards life is so affirmative that she looks forward with hope and marches ahead. In otherwords “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal …” (Phil 3: 13-14).

Like Alisa we may find ourselves in the midst of several challenges, hardships, limitations, weaknesses,
struggles, etc., or it could be even worse. It could be in relation with ourselves, with others or with God. As a caring mother, the Church beckons and offers us an excellent opportunity, a ‘second chance’. Have you ever thought of Lent as a yearly second chance? Each year the Church gives us six weeks to take a long, loving look at our lives to see if our values and priorities are in line with God’s desires for us. Since most of us find that we have wandered from God’s path, Lent becomes that second chance, or a do-over, to “return to God with our whole heart.” Thus, we are invited to make a free response to this ‘time of grace’; entering into that loving embrace of the father who waits for us.

We are well aware that grace is a free gift of God (CCC 1999); it is a participation in the life of God; it
introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life (CCC 1997). Yet, this free initiative of God demands man's free response, for he has given us the power to know him and love him (CCC 2002). Coming to his senses, the prodigal son made a choice to get up and walk towards his father’s home. In that free response he made to the initiative of God, he enters into the embrace of the loving and merciful father, which was far beyond his imagination.

As members of the Jesus Youth family, all of us have experienced the love and mercy of the Father in a
personal and unique way some time or the other. A deeper self-reflection today would perhaps indicate
that we are far away from that experience. Our decision to walk home, keeping the image of the loving and merciful father who longs to embrace us, will be ‘the time of grace’ for us during this holy season of Lent. It could be a painful decision, yet like Alisa can we allow the words of St. Paul to come alive in us during this season, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal”.

I invite you to a few concrete actions (at least three) to assist us embrace this ‘time of grace’.

Identifying at least one aspect or area where we are stuck and deciding to move forward to the
goal or the ideal can be a true experience of ‘time of grace’.

Make sure that we have a crucifix in a central place in our home/room during Lent.
Memorize and recall Jn 3:16 each time we look at the crucifix.

Keeping a bowl of holy water in a place easily accessible to all family members and blessing
ourselves with it at least in the morning and evening can be a reminder of the renewal of our
baptismal promises.

A candle can be lit at each meal to remind us of the light of Christ among us in Lent and to
prepare us for the new fire being lit at the Easter Vigil.

Placing a Bible in a central place in our home/room could remind us of the central place of God’s
Word in our lives on this Lenten journey.

Do something that hurts: Pope Francis reminds us “No self-denial is real without this dimension of
penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.”

Take a moment to particularly pray for all the preparations underway for the Jesus Youth Formation
plans scheduled to roll out this year.

Draw close to a consecrated woman and/or man and tell them how much you appreciate his/her
consecrated life in the Church.

It is my prayerful wish that each of us has a spiritually fruitful season of Lent. Please do say a small prayer for me.

Fr. Bitaju Puthenpurackal O.SS.T.
Spiritual Director, Jesus Youth International

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