Dear friends and fellow journey-mates. Today, I’ve taken the liberty to borrow and excerpt from a column by Bishop Gerald Kicanas. He is the Bishop of the Tucson, Arizona Diocese. His topic is:
LENT: Study, Reflect and Act.
Pope Benedict XVI will soon publish a book titled, “Jesus of Nazareth.” He began writing the book before he became pope. Since then, he has struggled to find time to continue the work, but despite all the demands on his time he has stayed at the task and in the spring will publish the first 10 chapters. The Holy Father makes a point of saying in the preface to the book that his writing is “not at all a magisterial act, but the expression of my personal seeking of the ‘Lord's face’ (Psalm 27:8). Therefore, everyone has the liberty to contradict me.”
As bishop of the Tucson Diocese, I, for one, look forward to reading the Holy Father’s reflections on Jesus, which have been gleaned from his study of Sacred Scripture, his prayer, his time before the Blessed Sacrament and his efforts to imitate Christ. His thoughts can encourage all of us, especially during Lent, to consider more deeply our relationship with Christ and who Christ is in our lives as we study, pray and encounter Him in our daily lives.
As bishop, if I am going to lead others to Christ, I know that I, too, must meet and imitate Christ as Pope Benedict has modeled. Faith is at the core a personal encounter with Christ. That is critical. Without such an encounter, faith withers. Catechists know that they cannot just teach children the doctrines and morals of the faith, as important as those are.
They know that the doctrines and morals take on meaning when one becomes a disciple in a deep and intimate relationship with Christ. This Lent, follow Pope Benedict’s lead and seek to deepen your discipleship by study, by contemplation and by imitation of Christ.
In seminary, the classes I enjoyed most were on Scripture, especially the four gospels and their depictions of the life of Christ. I marveled at the ways my Jesuit professor, Father Edward O' Kelly could open up the Scriptures for us and what the Word taught about Christ and His mission. I still have my well-used notes from his classes.
This Lent read one of the Gospels, slowly, meditatively, taking in the life of Christ, His words and actions. Reading one of the many available studies of the Gospels can be helpful. Read one of the many wonderful biographies of Christ. Read the section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that invites us to journey with Christ. Read reflectively this Lent and deepen your relationship with Christ.
Spend time before the Eucharist, being with a friend Who loves you so much. Talk with Him as a friend, as someone you are interested in knowing better. He surely wants to know you better.
I remember as a young boy in high school coming from lunch on my way to my next class, pausing to kneel before a statue of the boy Christ that stood at the head of the corridor where my locker was. Christ fascinated me.
He was someone even more impressive, believe it or not, than Luis Aparicio, the White Sox shortstop who was a hero to me. These encounters deepened my love of Christ. I identified with Him, wanted to be like Him – and also like Luis Aparicio.
As an altar server, I felt privileged to serve for Forty Hours, kneeling in adoration before the Eucharist. One time I fainted while kneeling before the monstrance. My teacher, Sister Seraphia, panicked, but I convinced her to let me go back and finish the hour.
Take time this Lent for Eucharistic adoration to be with the Lord, and your relationship with Him will deepen. Finally, do some things this Lent to imitate Christ. We imitate a person we admire, look up to and want to be like. Christ went about doing good. He healed the sick, wept with those who suffered, reached out to those on the margins of society. We can do the same.
As we grow in our relationship with the Lord, someday we, too, might be able to write a book about Jesus, the person we have come to know by our study, reflection and action, the person we most want to be like.