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Lent — a season of mercy

 

I heard a dynamic speaker last year, and have read more about and from him in the months since.

John O’Leary was burned in a horrific accident as a child. His is a remarkable story. His injuries could have left him bitter; instead, he is a joyful, thoughtful husband, father, motivational speaker, and businessman, who works daily to inspire others. A recent message he shared really sparked my thoughts about Lent, which began this Wednesday.

This is a season of penance, sacrifice, and heightened awareness, O’Leary said. We often “give up” things -- desserts, candy, other indulgences.

But these “sacrifices” aren’t intended as quiet suffering, or to prove -- to ourselves or others -- our nobility or endurance. Instead, this sacrifice should “... dramatically transform our interior lives in order to transform the manner in which we show up in our external lives,” O’Leary said.

My thoughts whirled: How can I make “more” of this Lent?

In “giving up” something, we change our focus, sharpen and hone our spiritual lives.

Perhaps this Lent is a good time, in this Year of Mercy called for by Pope Francis, to focus on the works of mercy -- corporal and spiritual.

I can use the time or resources I am “giving up” toward acts of mercy.

I had to go and refresh my memory; though active in my faith, my knowledge in many areas is woefully lacking.

The corporal works of mercy, tending to our physical needs, are:

•Feed the hungry (Contribute to the “40 Cans for 40 Days” drive by the Knights of Columbus.)

•Give drink to the thirsty (Donate gift cards to help those in need pay utility bills.)

•Clothe the naked (Clean out our closets to donate to St. Vincent de Paul, etc.)

•Visit the sick (Visit those in hospital or nursing homes or neighbors who are ill.)

•Ransom the captive (Visit those in prison, or help a ministry that serves those with addictions.)

•Bury the dead (Attend funerals, or contribute to funeral costs for needy families.)

Spiritual works of mercy:

•Instruct the ignorant (Are you called to teach religious education, to serve on a retreat, or to evangelize?)

•Counsel the doubtful (Offer your wisdom and experience to those who ask.)

•Admonish sinners (No finger-pointing, but share your own journey.)

•Bear wrongs patiently (Pray for the driver who cuts you off on the road, for instance?)

•Forgive offenses willingly (see above!)

•Comfort the afflicted (Embrace those in need; hear their worries, write a note.)

•Pray for the living and the dead. (A daily rosary or Chaplet of Divine Mercy?)

All of these may not be within reach, but it’s worth a try. Perhaps you’ll join me in this Lenten journey of mercy.

 
 
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