When did I see You?

The season of Lent is a time to look at ourselves, to take a deeper look into our lives and see what it is we may need to amend, what is good that we should continue to do and to take stock of all that God has done in our lives.  It is also a time when we are asked to sacrifice, to be more conscientious of others and their needs, to look at the world around us laid bare by the starkness of winter, and ask ourselves what is it that God wants or needs from me.  

We are loved beyond measure, an unconditional love that gave us Jesus Christ, the Paschal Lamb.  We are not asked to make such a dire sacrifice, we are simply asked to love Him in a way in which we are willing to place our lives into His loving hands, trusting all we have into His care.   

We see the trust that is asked of us by the example of Abraham (Gen 22) in the first reading for the second Sunday of Lent.  Abraham is put to the test, a test that many of us as parents, grandparents or guardians would have a great deal of difficulty understanding, let alone actually doing.  Yet his love and devotion to God, and his belief that all things are possible through our Lord, find him preparing to do what is asked.  Abraham chose to listen, to follow and to trust.  

During this season are we willing to listen, truly listen, and ask ourselves, What is God asking of me?  What is it that I need to do?  What do I need to sacrifice?  We may find that when we quiet our minds and listen with our hearts, we come to the realization that it is love and a deeper relationship that is sought after and that God wants us to put our trust in Him.  

Often those nagging thoughts and ideas that seem to pop into our minds unbidden are messages that we sometimes ignore.  We see a person struggling with a burden, our heart is drawing us forward to give them a hand, yet we pull away.  We are asked to volunteer a few hours to our community, and even though we would gain so much from the experience, we find excuses, generally citing our schedules and our lack of time.  We finally get a moment to ourselves and instead of sitting quietly in the silence, we fill it with noise.  

We are so full of good intentions and a willingness to do what is right, yet we allow ourselves to fall short.  Guilty as charged!  But yet God waits patiently for us, giving us the freedom to make our own choices, and even knowing us as He does, loves us anyway.  To prove His love for us He sent us Jesus to live among us, becoming one of us, helping us to find our way to God, Our Father.   

Do we choose to follow?   Are we willing to listen?  The disciples were fortunate to not only have Jesus in their midst, but to also experience God’s voice instructing them: “This is My beloved Son. Listen to Him” (Mk 9:2-10).  Jesus may not be walking among us as in the days of the His ministry, yet I wonder if He isn’t.  What?  There is a song that always comes to mind when I am struggling with adding yet another item to my calendar, or taking a few minutes to help a stranger.  “Whatsoever you do to the least of My brothers” is one of those songs that has stuck with me throughout my lifetime.  It continually reminds me that Jesus is still very much a part of our lives.

The verses are quite simple: “When I was hungry, you gave Me to eat; when I was thirsty you gave Me to drink, etc.”  When these verses play in my head, I start to wonder what I have missed.  Was Jesus staring back at me through the eyes of the lonely person who just needed a smile? Was that Jesus Who struggled with the load they were carrying? By coming up with excuses for not volunteering did I rob myself of time with Christ? My Lenten mission, if you will, is to look at everyone I encounter and strive to not only see them, but to recognize the Christ within.  To truly see with the eyes of Christ, to recognize the person within the person, to look beyond their appearance and see them as Jesus would.  

Recognizing Christ in others accomplishes so much in our lives, it takes us closer into a loving relationship with God, and reminds us of what God desires of us.  Stepping out of our comfort zones and reaching out to others can be difficult at times, leaving us feeling vulnerable.  However, it is in these moments that we begin to understand what God is asking of us, often discovering where our talents lie, and what God wants and needs from us.  It is in the sacrificing that we come to know, it is in the struggle that we begin to comprehend, and it is in the release that we gain so much.  After all, we are preparing to celebrate the grace of our forgiveness, the gift of our Salvation and the hope in the Resurrection.

Anchor columnist Rose Mary Saraiva lives in Fall River and is the Events Coordinator and Bereavement Ministry for the diocesan Office of Faith Formation. She is married with three children and two grandchildren. rsaraiva@dfrcs.com.

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