February 24, 2023

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

During Lent, hope can be reborn ‘even now’

Sean Gallagher“Even now.”

Those are the first words of the first reading for the first Mass in Lent, proclaimed two days ago on Ash Wednesday (Jl 2:12).

Those two little words should echo in our hearts from now until we celebrate Christ’s resurrection on Easter.

For they are words of hope. To the Lord, it matters not what bad choices we’ve made or what bad habits we’ve fostered that bury hope deep under dark memories and dim views of ourselves.

He who was betrayed by one disciple and abandoned by the others save one, who was scourged and crucified, knows all too well how the hurts we’ve received from others through the years have torn hope out of our hearts.

It doesn’t matter what’s happened in the past to make hope an empty word. Even now, says the Lord, hope can be reborn within us.

The start of this rebirth can begin when we heed the voice of the Lord speaking to us through the prophet Joel: “return to me with your whole heart” (Jl 2:12).

Our hearts have been broken into pieces by our own faults and failings, by those of others and simply by life in a world marred by the ever-continuing ripple effects of original sin.

So, Our Lord invites us at the start of Lent to pick up the pieces of our broken hearts and give them to him.

Then the blood that flowed from his pierced and broken heart can heal our own, restoring wholeness to our hearts.

The message of mercy in those two little words, “even now,” should echo in our hearts all the more during Lent as we live in a world where our increasingly secular culture focuses more and more on sin, but less and less on forgiveness.

It’s important for us parents to foster the message of “even now” in the hearts of our children who are growing up and coming of age in this culture. And Lent is a good time to do this.

We parents know full well from past experience that the bright promises made on Ash Wednesday will be broken sooner or later, probably sooner.

But Our Lord invites us to make these oh-so-fragile resolutions nonetheless because of “even now.” He always has hope in us, even when we don’t have hope in ourselves. And not only does he have hope in us, he offers us his grace to make this Lent more like what he envisions for us, not the jaded view we might have because of the broken Lents of the past.

The seeds of such cynicism can be planted in the hearts of our children when they make their own resolutions and fail in carrying them out because, well, they’re broken humans like the rest of us.

The key for parents, grandparents, teachers and other adults who can form children is to be channels of God’s grace, instilling in them the message of “even now.” Then they can hold on to the hope of a better future for themselves, despite the mistakes they’ve made in the past and in the face of a culture that tells them to give up on hope-filled ideals, shrug their shoulders and give in to sin.

Helping our children to make the message of “even now” their own during Lent is a practice for us to do the same in the bigger moments of life.

When children and adults build their everyday lives with the help of God’s grace on the foundation of an “even now” hope, we can joyfully bring God’s light into our world that needs it so much. †

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