By Father Wil Steinbacher
The journey of Lent into love must be lived over and over again; this is why we celebrate it yearly. The forces of darkness are powerful, and it is only letting the grace of the journey wash over us again and again that we come to see how we are set free by the love of Jesus. The love of Jesus received and lived is the goal of Lent.
Lent is not just about fasting and abstaining, though of course these are good practices. Lent is about the love Jesus shows for all people from the cross.
Lent also calls us to reach out to those we don’t know who need our help. It is this kind of selfless love that changes hearts.
A Journey Begins
I saw this during our Lenten observance at Glenmary’s St. Francis of Assisi mission in New Albany, Mississippi, where I was pastor. Our hearts were changed and our understanding of the importance of our journey became evident.
I received a letter from someone who was interested in becoming a Catholic. The writer was M.B. Mayfield, who turned out to be a gentle person of African-American descent. He was moved by the journey to love. He found a home and love in the midst of the people of St. Francis.
Love Is Expansive
This sense of love moved us to gather with our brothers and sisters of other faiths, and we began to see change in our community. We had the first ever service between the African-American church, Zion Baptist, and the mostly white Catholic church in Union County. This is no small thing in Mississippi!
We continued working together, and were able to gather the Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists and ourselves to share funds, volunteers and time to help the poor in the county. It was an ecumenical endeavor that helped others to live a bit better.
The journey of love calls us to recognize and set aside our prejudices and see that people who are different are also the same.
Love is expansive. It opens up understandings of the great mysteries we celebrate during Lent and Easter.
Let’s rededicate ourselves to love, our only hope, this Lent!
This reflection first appeared in the Spring 2020 edition of Glenmary Challenge magazine.