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Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Thursday, February 26, 2009
Readings: Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Ps 1:1-2,3,4,6; Luke 9:22-25.

Throughout the ages, Christians have often been accused of being masochists. After all, at the centre of our faith is an instrument of cruel torture - the cross. Some people find our attitude to difficulty and suffering very bizarre indeed, and it seems that our faith requires that we wallow, even enjoy, the suffering that comes our way in life. Even as Christians, the business of taking up our cross does not sit easily with us. In my room when I was a novice, there was a slightly moth eaten piece of cross stitch mounted on the wall. The piece had flowers arranged around a few words which read 'no cross, no crown'. I must admit that in the more challenging times, it was tempting to take it down and put it in a drawer, or at the very least turn it around so that its truth could not remind me that I needed to be more patient and more accepting of the more difficult aspects of life.

In our lives many trials come our way. We do not have to go looking for them, because they seem to be able to find us all on their own! By accepting our trials, from the little daily irritations to the bigger, more challenging moments of crisis and loss in our lives, we seem to have so much to lose. And today's Gospel confirms our suspicion. The way of the cross means we lose our lives. But the dramatic events that Jesus foretells - his own death and resurrection - should always remind us that if we unite our trials and sufferings with him, we will find meaning in them, a meaning which will bring with it new life.

It is perhaps helpful to reflect on our daily struggles at this special time of Lent. What are the greatest difficulties that I face in my daily life? How do I respond to them? Do I seek the grace to bear my trials with patience and humility, uniting them with the suffering of Christ? Do I allow God to change in me that which needs to change? In a special way, Lent provides us with an ideal opportunity to expose our weaknesses, because we enter the desert with Christ. The stories of the Desert Fathers give us examples of those who followed Christ into the desert, and came out transformed. For us, just as was the case for them, by identifying what holds us back in our imitation of Christ, we can die a little more each day to ourselves, so that we might open the door and welcome the risen Christ this Easter. Let us not be afraid to enter the desert of Lent, so that we may drink deeply from the life giving streams that Christ's death and resurrection pour out for us.

Robert Gay OP


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