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Lent + Sacrifice = Healing

How’s your Lenten journey thus far?  Are you having a spiritually productive Lent?  Are you making progress in your spiritual life?  No or not sure?  Well, don’t worry.  Progress is not always visible.  We must continue on the journey regardless of whether we feel good or not.  The consolations of God are not always measurable or realized, but we must continue to sacrifice and travel the road of life.  In this blog, I would like to talk about sacrifice and in particular thespiritual works of mercy healing that is gained from it.

In this year of Mercy, we have a tremendous opportunity to reflect on God’s mercy and in a special way focus on our own extension of mercy towards others. The seven spiritual and corporal works of mercy are given to us as a guide and spiritual checklist of sorts. corporal works of mercy I want to focus on three of the spiritual works of mercy: to comfort the sorrowful, to bear wrongs patiently and to forgive all injuries.

Comforting the sorrowful is a powerful way to invite love and healing into our lives.  As St. Francis of Assisi writes in his prayer of peace, “it is in giving that we receive.”  When we step out of our own pain and trials and enter into that of another, we expand our hearts and capacity to love.  When we minister to another in need, we share in their grief and we diminish our collective pain.  This helps us personally to cope and propels us in our own healing journey because we see how our story has generated compassion, empathy and blessed the life of another brother or sister in Christ.  So the next time, you are feeling unable to minister to someone who is hurting because you are hurting from your own freshly inflicted wounds, consider reaching out and lightening the load of someone who is also afflicted.  You will receive much grace and you will feel wonderful.

Bearing wrongs patiently is another gem in the Catholic tradition which is hardly exercised because most people today want to protect their own self-image, preserve their self-worth and pursue self-help remedies which does not subscribe to bearing any wrongs, let alone bearing anything with patience.  How often do we have this opportunity in our lives?  Everyday in our travels we can choose to exercise this spiritual work of mercy, but most just flip a finger or enter into road rage.  People are hurting one another all the time.  When this happens to you and it will, what are you going to do?  Allow peace to flood your soul and see the grace filled moment for what it is or lash out in anger?  Perhaps it is righteous anger that you feel, but this spiritual work of mercy takes us to Christ on His cross.  Jesus receives the verbal abuse of the pharisees and high priests with no malice in His heart, but only offers silence.  And He extends the final work of mercy that I want to discuss: forgiveness.  What love and what an example Jesus gave us! Calvary

Forgiving all injuries is where the rubber meets the road for most of us.  St. Peter says to Jesus, “‘Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?’  Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times'” (Matthew 18:21-22).  In other words, as many times as is necessary you must forgive.  Wow!  That is a lot of forgiving and much courage will be required to fulfill Christ’s command.  This is where most of the healing will come for us.  Do you have the courage to forgive those who wounded you so terribly?  Not yet?  Don’t worry brother or sister in Christ, these delicate matters can take time.  Christ did not tell us how long this process should be and so we mustn’t think that our forgiveness needs to be instant like His was from His cross, but it needs to take place at some point in our journey.  Forgiveness is one of those unavoidable and necessary ingredients for our own personal freedom from pain.

Finally, remember these words:”you are only as free as your ability to forgive.”

Bless you on this road!

Mark Houck