This coming Wednesday is the beginning of Lent. With the receiving of ashes, we begin the forty days. Each year, we hear the same words from the Gospel of the day reminding us of the need to spend the Lenten period in prayer, mortification, and alms giving. Often during this time we can be mostly interested in ourselves, forgetting we are called to be disciples in service to others.
The Catholic Times, in their editorial and desk column, reminds us that in today's world, where there is a great deal of talk of how we should be helping the less fortunate, there is little actually done to carry this out. Without serious reflection during Lent, this time will usually only center on finding ways that will help us become holier, as we concentrate on doing more acts of sacrifice and praying--all very important, but it should not stop there. We need to leave our comfort zone and follow the example Pope Francis is giving us, not only by his words but more so by his actions.
The columnist reminds us that the Pope's actions are concrete acts of concern for the poor and the alienated in society. She mentions that in his Lenten message, he writes: "In imitation of our Master, we Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it." He goes on to say that we are called to be disciples as we go out to others, to be "God's leaven in the midst of humanity." We are, in other words, to imitate Jesus.
One lesson that is often learned from reading the Gospels is how uncomprehending were the male disciples. They had the greatest possible teacher for three years, traveled with him, saw his many miracles, and heard his teachings repeatedly, and yet when the going was tough they left him.
When we take a close look at the disciples, what is immediately noticed is that up until the very end it was the women disciples who stayed with him. From Luke 8:3, we learn the names of some of them: "Mary called the Magdalene, from whom seven devils had gone out; Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza; Susanna and many others who were assisting them out of their means." They were the faithful ones.
Why was this the case? The answers are varied, but one thing is certain: the women did not have any ambitions to be prime ministers and members of the inner circle when the kingdom of David was restored, as the apostles did. Even the apostles' closeness to Jesus did not help them from being overly concerned about their own welfare.
The women, however, were following Jesus not to receive but to give. The apostles were more interested in receiving, and this was their weak point. When they saw their dreams dissolve with the arrest, passion and death of Jesus all came to an end. Motivation is difficult to change because it deals with our self-esteem.
This Lent we need to practice forgetting ourselves, becoming more interested in what we can do for others than in what Jesus can do for us.