People have a tendency to replay faults, to dwell on them, to allow them to define our personhood. But as we mature in our walk with Jesus, hopefully our self-examination is balanced and tempered with an intimate knowledge of our merciful God. This intimacy will keep our reflection constructive and keep us safe from anxiety as we continue to learn more about ourselves, and how utterly dependent we are upon the Lord’s strength and mercy.
Today’s reading from Ezekiel reminds us that God is a God of mercy. He hath not dealt with us after our sins, Nor rewarded us after our iniquities [Ps. 103:10]. Again, the psalmist proclaims, as far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our iniquities from us [Ps. 103:12]. God is not interested in defining us by our past, but invites us forward into a new life with Jesus.
When I am tempted to despair, to fall into cowardice as I reflect upon my own weakness, I often consider Therese of Lisieux, a young Carmelite nun. She was the smallest of sisters and utterly insignificant in the eyes of the world. Therese knew she was small and weak, but was so confident in God’s love and mercy that she was honored and proclaimed a Doctor of the Universal Church.
Therese embraced her littleness. She did not seek public praise; she never sought to place herself higher than another sister. She carried out her mundane duties with heroic love, and volunteered for those tasks that would increase her need for Jesus, and she learned to see Jesus in every task. By comparison, the Pharisees took offense at Christ. Jesus’poverty, the ordinariness of his existence and reality, blinded them, and hurt their pride. They would not follow the Lord of the universe because they were offended by the reality of Christ.
Therese was not offended by Christ’s poverty, or the poverty of her situation in life. We can learn from Therese by asking, are we offended by our reality and our spiritual poverty? Do we allow our littleness to become a stumbling block in our relationship with Jesus? Do we tire of the path we walk? Do we reject Jesus in the people we have been called to encounter on our daily journey? It is by embracing our reality, provided by Jesus, that we encounter Jesus.
I have begun to thank Jesus when unfortunate or inconvenient circumstances arise, very simple events. I sweep the floor, and my child drops his peanut butter sandwich – thanks Jesus! A financial burden, a poorly timed text from a needy brother or sister asking for service, a correction from a superior – thank you Jesus! Our merciful father is working out our salvation and granting our requests for love, hope, charity, patience humility etc… in these commonplace events. If we thirst for Jesus, we necessarily follow him, and we necessarily carry a cross. Acknowledge Jesus, rest in his mercy and be grateful this lent. This gratitude is sure to be a wonderful expression of faith for those very ordinary individuals with whom we share our lives.
–Joel Samaha is a husband and father of five living in Augusta, Georgia. He teaches and coaches at a local high school and is a member of the Alleluia Community.