During these past few days I have been thinking about Lent which begins this Wednesday realizing that Ash Wednesday is the day before Valentine's Day. Somehow the two came together for me, quite accidentally, as I happened upon a book of sayings from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Let me explain.
What to do for Lent? What should I give up? I always struggle with giving up things for Lent because once I decide to give it up I want it more than anything! That's normal I guess. I know that fasting is very important. God uses our fasting to strengthen our will. But just as important is not just giving up but giving!
The book I came across had Mother Teresa's brief thoughts about love: "Intense love does not measure - it just gives." And, "let us not make a mistake - that hunger is only for a piece of bread. The hunger of today is so much greater: for love - to be wanted, to be loved, to be cared for, to be somebody."
This Lent perhaps we could consider reaching out in love. St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, discovered that her vocation in the Church was love. Reaching out in love, when we don't want to, is a great gift we could give to the Lord this Lent.
Recently a priest friend told us about an experience he had in a Spanish-speaking parish where he serves. Some Sunday evenings members of Latino gangs attend Mass. This baffled the priest. He would greet and hug his parishioners after every Mass and some of the gang members would come for their hugs. He met with one young man, a leader in one of the gangs, and he asked him why he was living the life he was living. The man told him that he had never been loved. He grew up in an abusive home; his mother would repeatedly tell him that he was garbage. He found acceptance in the gang. As the conversation continued and Father shared with the young man about how much God loved him, he wept and wept on Father's shoulder. Over the course of time, he left the gang.
God's love and Father's love freed this young man. Do we know any one who needs to be free this Lent? Mother Teresa said that "thoughtfulness is the beginning of great sanctity." That's the whole reason for Lent - to grow in holiness. "Love begins at home," Mother Teresa said, "and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put into what we do." And finally, "We know that if we really want to love we must learn to forgive." May this be a very blessed Lent for all of us.