The Cross: An Invitation To Begin Again

Lenten Reflections with Br. Michael Perras, ofm

Have you ever had one of those Lents which felt like you were stuck in traffic in a construction zone? Start. Stop. Start. Stop. Move a bit forward. No movement. If so, you are not alone! I know for myself and a few others this Lent has felt this way. It’s not because of a lack of a plan or resources. Sometimes those plans get sidelined, other times they get railroaded. The Third Sunday of Lent is a good time to refocus. St. Francis of Assisi is known for saying, “Let us begin again for up to now we have done very little.” He made this statement near the end of his life. If he could say it then surely we can use it as an invitation to step into this Third Week of Lent.

The very familiar Exodus text of the Ten Commandments gives us some encouragement to begin again as it reminds us to look at our relationships. Who am I in relationship with? How is my relationship with God? Which relationships need healing and forgiveness? How is my relationship with creation and sabbath time? The Ten Commandments are not punishments to live by rather they are our guideposts which can lead us into the depth of relationship. They help us to hear the Lord’s words of everlasting life (Psalm 19) spoken into this season and into our living; inviting us to begin again.

The Season of Lent obviously draws our attention to the Cross, with its “message of the foolishness of the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1.18). St. Francis spent many of his days caught up with his attention on the foolishness of the Cross and Passion of Christ. We may not be able to spend our whole day caught up reflecting on the Cross like St. Francis, but we can begin again each day to contemplate its wisdom and strength. It may be as simple as signing ourselves with the cross as we get out of bed, or considering each street intersection we go through in a day as a reminder of the cross. It may be as we go for a walk and notice branches in a tree or strewn on the ground or take note of the streaks in the sky calling us to praise God for gift of the Cross.

The cross branded onto us in Baptism and Confirmation is not just a one-time moment. It is a being claimed in Christ which is to then live in the Paschal Mystery. The temple of our body is signed with Christ not to be destroyed by the ways of death and destruction of the world, rather to be transformed into the likeness of who we truly are as children of God. May we be consumed this week with courage, goodness and zeal for this Lenten journey whether it is already going well or as we begin again.

By your Cross and Resurrection, Lord Jesus, you have set us free.

Photo Credit: Eberhard Grossgasteiger

Covenant: Good News Bearers

Lenten Reflections with Br. Michael Perras, OFM

The beautiful story of the promise made to Noah launches us into the first full week of Lent. It is good to be reminded our God has made a promise to us and we are held in a covenant with God. During this first week of Lent we are invited to pay attention to the promises we make and who we are in covenant with in our daily living. To be in a covenant calls us to relationship, not just a transaction. As a Franciscan Friar I live my life in a covenant with my fellow Friars and with the church, those who are married are in a covenant with their spouse, and all of us are in a covenant with each other and creation. If we consider the covenants we are currently in during this first week of Lent by the time we arrive at the Easter Vigil the readings from the Old Testament and the Resurrection of Jesus make perfect sense. For God’s covenant with us is about relationship, continually calling us into God’s love and to ensure this love is made known in the world. In other words, to be Good News Bearers. This is at the core of the gospel for the First Sunday of Lent.

The gospel story about Jesus in the wilderness and being tempted often leads only to focusing on what tempts us. When we pay closer attention to the gospel (Mark 1.12-15 – read it again!) we see the temptation of Jesus is simply noted as a passing statement. What stands out is the length of time (40 days), who surrounded him (wild beasts and Angels) and what Jesus did following this time (proclaimed Good News). During this first week of Lent let us investigate our life and consider: How I am intentionally spending these 40 days? What wild beasts do I need to face this Lent? Who are the Angels who are guiding me? How will I journey during this Lenten pilgrimage as a Good News Bearer?

As our hearts are transformed, as we pray, fast and give alms, as we take note of the covenant we hold with each other and with God we come to see how our lives speak of the kingdom of God. Every covenant has times in which they need to be evaluated, in which forgiveness must be sought and repentance must be made. Lent is the perfect opportunity to renewal our promises to be covenant people and bearers of the Good News. Our baptismal promises demand this of us.

Peace and Goodness in Week One of the Lenten Journey.

Photo Credit:  Jorge Fernandez-Salas