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Lenten Reflection: Biblical challenges provoke thoughtful reflection, raise hope

Lent is a time when the readings selected by the Church are often challenging, mysterious and sometimes even incomprehensible. We see Jesus suffering temptation as if he were an ordinary man. We hear God ask a father, Abraham, to sacrifice his only son. We see the Prince of Peace overturning tables and chasing people out of the temple. We are asked to trust that our salvation can only be achieved by the violent death of the Son of God.

Through all of these readings and events, God pokes at us to make us move and stir us up as if we were so many turtles who would prefer to bask in the sun and ignore anything outside our shells. We are asked to take time to look into our hearts and our lives to see if we have replaced God with something else. What do we idolize – money, power, control, popularity, laziness, pursuit of pleasure, status? Who are our idols? Do they really represent what we know deep down to be right and honorable?

Cleaning out our priorities and putting love of God and love of our neighbor before all else may seem like a sacrifice, but really it is liberation. God is trying to free us from anything that gets in the way of being loving, healthy human beings. Unfortunately, we don’t always make the best choices. In his Lenten message for 2024, Pope Francis comments sadly, “there remains in us an inexplicable longing for slavery. A kind of attraction to the security of familiar things, to the detriment of our freedom.”

This does not mean that we are doomed! Pope Francis exhorts us to hold on to hope, so that through God’s grace, with courage, we can be free. During these last weeks of Lent, may you embrace freedom and hold fast to hope as you prepare for an Easter filled with joy and love!

God bless you!

Sister Joan Marie Stelman, OSB, Benedictine senior vice president, mission integration

Pope Francis’ whole Lenten message can be found at: https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/lent/documents/20231203-messaggio-quaresima2024.html#_ftnref1