Bishop Hying

See Lent as an opportunity to live in greater peace and reconciliation with others

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on February 12, 2017


       Even though Lent is over two weeks away, I always like to think ahead and plan what I hope to do during this holy season of prayer, penance and service. The way to understand Lent best is to reflect on our baptismal identity in Christ.

       At the Easter liturgy, we will renew our baptismal promises, receive the sprinkling of blessed water and witness new members of the Church being baptized and confirmed.  In baptism, we put on Christ, leave sin behind and embrace the life, truth and mercy of the Gospel. 

       This process of conversion takes a lifetime of growing in our relationship with the Lord, learning how to pray and love, and overcoming the weakness and selfishness in our lives.  Every year, the Church gives us this holy season of 40 days, reflective of Jesus’ time in the desert, to renew our commitment of discipleship, just as we will renew our baptismal promises at Easter.

       This Lent, I want to deepen my prayer life, starting the day with substantive time with the Lord. While I try to do this now, but I need to be more focused and consistent. Too often, I am trying to fit prayer into my day instead of putting my day into prayer.  Whether we embrace Bible reflection, the rosary, simple quiet time or a daily spiritual guidebook, we all need time for solitude and silence. 

       As the years fly by, I crave stillness and peace more and more. God speaks in tranquility and quiet; my favorite places are in front of the Blessed Sacrament, a chair by my front window, the woods or beach or even my car. If our life is constant noise, activity and restlessness, God’s gentle, steady and inviting voice gets drowned out. Given everything happening in the world these days, we need prayer and peacefulness more than ever.

       This Lent, I want to give up complaining and criticizing people. I consider myself pretty tolerant and patient, but like everybody else in the human race, some things get under my skin. In radical honesty, I have nothing to complain about - ever.  Millions of people in the world struggle to get enough to eat, find a job, survive cancer, escape terrorism or save their marriage. Every day, people ask me to pray for someone who is sick, going through emotional difficulties or struggling with suicidal thoughts. 

       In contrast, my life is so blessed, easy, joyous, full and even miraculous. And yet, I find myself complaining (at least inwardly) about the most ridiculous things sometimes: crazy drivers on the road, the duration of red traffic lights, the minor faults of other people, the need to wait in offices and stores for service or just daily frustrations. 

       You could easily assemble your own list of the challenges that try your patience and good humor. As Saint Francis de Sales said, “An ounce of patience in a moment of great trial is worth more than a pound of patience when all is well.”

       For a complexity of reasons, we live in a very angry culture right now. The toxicity out on social media, road rage, the volatility of our politics and increased violence everywhere all point to a spiritual crisis in our society. On the freeway, on the Internet, in the political process, most of that toxicity can remain dangerously anonymous. Some feel no need to take responsibility for their destructive words and actions. 

       On the other hand, when we choose to handle anger and frustration maturely, enter into dialogue where we can, bite our tongues against destructive complaining and malicious gossip, we are reducing the toxicity level in the world. Lent is a great moment to live in greater peace and reconciliation, following the Master who always remained rooted in the love of the Father.

       This Lent, I want to consume less - less food and drink - spend less money on myself, declutter my closet and my life, give away things I do not need or use, clean the nooks and crannies of both my office and my soul where junk has accumulated.

       I recently read a book outlining the simplicity movement - people who have down-sized everything in their lives and have found greater happiness, fulfillment and peace without all the clutter. In our consumer society, our “throw-away culture,” as Pope Francis puts it, the choice to live with less, consume less, be more mindful of the environment and our use of natural resources is a prophetic action which frees us to give more time, money and resources to the poor and suffering. I want to be more generous in loving those in need. More Christ; less me.

       Lent is a great time to take stock of our lives, gently correct habitual faults, surrender negative attitudes and embrace the good life of the Gospel. The Lord calls us to the desert of the heart where we can hear the divine whisper of God’s infinite, passionate and unconditional love for us. This inner chamber of solitude and peace is where we learn the sufficiency of that amazing love - God is more than enough for us and will always abundantly provide for all we need, if we only trust and surrender.

       I have sat at the deathbeds of many people as they prepared to leave this world and go to the Father.  Not one has ever said, “I gave too much money to the poor or spent too much time with my family.”  No one, in that moment of ultimate truth, ever asked, “Why did I pray so much?” or “I regret being so involved in Church.” 

       In that ultimate moment when the imminence of death shows the inner meaning of life’s depths, people instinctively know what matters and what does not. Lent helps us to understand and live such hard-won wisdom right now.


       + Donald J. Hying


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