Lent: a Time to Reflect, to Look Inward

As this issue of The Messenger goes to press, we as members of the Catholic Church linked to others around the world, are just beginning our Lenten journeys. The ashes were distributed to the faithful and we are, in these cold days of winter, beginning to turn inward and reflect on whether our daily lives mirror the lessons of the Gospel. In this Jubilee Year of Mercy seeking out the humble way would be good advice for all of us. We don’t need to be recognized for doing whatever is right and just in our personal worlds because we are faith-filled gospel people. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Platitudes seem to roll off the tongue easily while practicing our faith in a world filled with the noises of everyday living make it much harder to do.

For instance, while I shudder to wade into or weigh in on the political scene, it’s almost inescapable.

Many of us are struck by the “reality TV” quality of the gatherings of politicians on the national stage. I hesitate to call them actual debates because they hardly look anything like real debates that are variously defined as “a serious discussion of a subject in which many people take part.”

Let’s look at some of the words in that definition: Serious discussion has little bearing on what has been passing for a debate. People stand behind podiums in prearranged order on a stage and then begin to make comments about the other people on the stage, usually derogatory or demeaning. Serious discussion? Hardly. It’s somewhat embarrassing to watch and listen to people who are explaining what an opponent said or believes without bothering to explain where he or she stands on an issue or topic. At the very least it’s exasperating. The sad reality is that one of those people will be running our country next year and representing us to the world.

When the group of potential candidates speaks, I withhold my agreement or disagreement until the “fact checkers” come back not only with what was said but also the truths or falsehoods associated with their remarks. The next day facts are certainly interesting, given what was said and done at the “debate.”

And even at this early stage in our political races, insults are flying. Can you imagine what it will be like when we have settled on the two candidates who will vie for the presidency? Oh my.

We need to pray for the candidates that they will step back from their strident rhetoric and take a look at what they are doing. For our part, we need to stop looking for entertainment and see what they have to say about important issues, one that will affect our lives in very personal ways. Lent is our time to step back and reflect on our values, our direction and our conversations. May we learn more about humility and outreach during this Lent, as important a time as ever.