I went on a Lent retreat last weekend and would love to share a couple of the jewels I received. Like the advice given to Scaredy Cat, focusing on humble means was the theme of the retreat. What are these humble means?
At the retreat we learned about active mortification verses passive mortification. In Lent, we usually lean toward active mortification. The “what should I do or not do?” mortification. Should I give up coffee or TV or Facebook? Should I say a rosary every day or some other pious activity? Usually, the goal in what I choose is to pick something I can be successful in doing. But, does this keep my focus on what Jesus Christ did for me on Calvary? If I am successful in my Lenten practices, do I come to know I need a Savior? Do I experience the desire to follow Christ to the end because I have been amazed by His tremendous love for me? We were encouraged to think about this. I was motivated to choose something that I know there is no way for me to accomplish, so that when I fail, I can remember I need a Savior. On the other hand, if I succeed in this impossible Lenten sacrifice, I will be convinced that it was only by Grace that I did!
When seeking the humble means, though, I find passive mortification is more valuable. The priest shared how the road to Calvary for Christ was a road of passive mortification. He did not choose what was to happen to Him, it was chosen for Him. He was condemned to death. He was scourged. He was made to carry the Cross. He was put to death. Jesus’ response to passive mortification was to say “yes”. He said to the Father: “Not my will, but yours be done” (Lk 42:22). I was encouraged at our retreat to see what God would choose for me this Lent and to try to accept this. In doing so, I might begin to die to myself, to my own will. It was explained to me that my cross was to become more aware about the truth of my being torn. Like the image of Jesus on the Cross – arms outstretched, torn apart – I am torn between what I want to do and what I do. I want to be patient, but I see my impatience. I want to measure up, but I constantly fall short. Then, my entrustment to Mary can be described as dying in Her Arms. She will carry me through the death of the old man in me. It is not always easy to accept what comes my way from God. Like today’s exhaustion when I have so many things to do to get ready for a trip; or yesterday’s experience when the Little One kept asking me to play and I could barely muster a smile; or having to make dinner for the family on a night I am not hungry or could survive on a bowl of cereal. WE (Blessed Mother with me) try to see in these events God knocking on the door of my heart. WE try to see how He desires to help me through these events. I need the comfort of Mary’s Arms – remembering She loves me as I am. Passive mortification helps me to see God’s action in my life - in every moment.
I want to tell you, Mary, my Mommy, that I am grateful for everything, even though this gratitude is so meager and pathetic that it seems to barely exist within me. …
I am grateful for this ongoing interior war, for the never-ending battle in me between the old man and the new, because it constantly weakens me so that You may be my strength.
I am grateful for the unceasing tension. Because of it, when I feel like God, I immediately fall apart, and You can piece me back together the right way. But this does not last for too long because this story of my departures and returns never ends. (S.C. Biela, The Two Pillars, [Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2006], 122.)
Every moment of our lives is permeated with the Presence that loves and bestows. To live in faith means to be able to see this loving and constantly bestowing Presence. Because of faith, Christ gradually becomes a light that shines through a person’s whole life and that shines through the world. He becomes a living, active presence in the life of his disciples. Every moment of our lives brings us His presence. Time is the Presence written with a capital “P.” It is the presence of Christ in our lives. It is the personal presence of God, revealing Himself as the One who expects something from us. God reveals Himself to us through His will. But what is His will? It is always that which is best for us because God is Love. Every moment of your life is a moment of meeting with the Presence that is loving you. (Tadeusz Dajczer, TheGift of Faith, 3rd. ed. [Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2012], 5-6.)