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A Deeper Freedom

A Deeper Freedom

February 19, 2024

In his Message for Lent Pope Francis wrote: “The call to freedom is a demanding one.  It is not answered straightaway; it has to mature as part of a journey” (2024).  There are so many windows to look through for focusing our Lenten journey.  What if we take the image of ‘freedom’ which Pope Francis speaks so profoundly about in his Lenten message.  Holding the word ‘freedom’ I like to bring back the three readings from the Eucharist for Ash Wednesday. 

From the prophet Joel (2:12-18) the reading centers on this phrase: ‘Break your hearts open’…forget your outer fasts…they mean nothing if the heart is not opened wide enough in love and for love: of God, oneself, and one’s neighbor.  Are we truly free when we neglect the heart?  Are we even aware when our heart is hardened and so we criticize others so quickly while never putting an eye upon ourselves.  Do we even pray, ‘Break my heart open O Lord so that I may be more tender towards this sister’.  Or ‘break my heart open so that I may see with the breadth, depth and width that you, Lord, see with’.  The reading from Joel exhorts us to ‘return to God’.  But how do we return?  Do we go with a readiness to have our heart converted, deepened, expanded?

In the second reading from 2 Corinthians (5:20-6:2) we heard: “Do not receive the grace of God in vain….Behold now is the acceptable time….NOW is the day of salvation”…Not tomorrow but now.  To not receive the grace of God at any given moment reveals how unfree we are, caught in our control, caught in our need to be in the driver’s seat not God, overtaken by emotions of despair, hopelessness, fear, anxiety.  Daily the grace of God is present…can we notice this movement of grace, can we let it change our mood, transform our emotional state?  Faith is not just a nice theological concept; it is living and active as we live into the presence of God whose grace is always available to us.  ‘Receive the grace of God do not let it pass in vain’.

In the gospel of Matthew (6:1-6,16-18) Jesus exhorts us to go to secret room of the heart and there pray….To give alms and to fast in a quiet hidden way as well…Why?  It is a humble heart that does not need to display one’s acts of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  The humble action elicits profound grace.  This is freedom of spirit.  Pope Francis in his Lenten message quotes two questions from Genesis, questions that God asks: ‘Where are you’ and ‘Where is your brother, where is your sister’?   Where am I?  Asking this question in prayer helps us to see the state of our inner life…Is my heart wide open in compassion or is it shut down within itself, closed, hardened?  Going to our secret room, the place of utter silence, here we can re-find ourselves, here we encounter the fullness of grace and mercy.

Pope Francis exhorts: “Lent is a season of conversion, a time of freedom.”  “Lent…also means to pause.  To pause in prayer, in order to receive the word of God…”  Pause and go to the secret room and pray…why?  To give space for the “atrophied and isolated heart” to be changed and revived.  Lent will help us rediscover the “contemplative dimension of life” says Pope Francis…and this will release “new energies”.  Going to the secret room of the heart, the place of silence where God’s word of life speaks, speaks even a silent word where we can feel embraced by grace.  This contemplative dimension of our lives is the fertile ground for deepening our love of God and neighbor…it is the ground of our freedom and transformation…it opens up the heart to receive the grace that God is longing to bestow on us.

In Gaudete et exsultate Pope Francis points to the dynamic where the human will asserts itself, controls, thus taking the place of mystery and grace (#48).  Perhaps this gives us another key to seeing the ways we bind ourselves by asserting our will over the silent movement of grace, the grace that is ready to convert us into freedom and life.  Let us then take these images of pausing…surrendering our will….listening….praying in the silent place of our heart as part of our Lenten practice.  Indeed, these will help prepare us to walk with Jesus into Holy Week and Easter and into more freedom of life and love.

Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess

Chapter Talk – First Sunday of Lent – February 18, 2024, cycle-B






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