This Lent, Let us Be Concerned for Each Other*
In Lent, we have the blessed opportunity to pour living water on the arid parts of our existence; with God’s grace, we can reinvigorate the dead parts of ourselves.
Jesus was led by the Spirit to the desert for forty days, where he fasted, prayed and was tempted by the devil (Mt 4:1-11). The Church calls us to purify ourselves by imitating Christ through our Lenten practices. But Jesus’ time in the desert was not an endurance test, it was holy preparation. Jesus shows us that we must strengthen ourselves spiritually to fully embrace God’s plan for our lives.
Our spiritual growth in Lent must also be social in nature. Pope Benedict XVI’s Lenten message draws our attention to a single scripture passage: “Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works” (Heb 10:24). The Pope divides his message into three parts:
1. Responsibility towards our brothers and sisters. The Greek word for “concerned,” katanoein, used in this passage means “to scrutinize, to be attentive, to observe carefully and take stock of something.” We are invited to truly know our neighbor’s need.
“Concern for others entails desiring what is good for them from every point of view: physical, moral and spiritual. . . . The good is whatever gives, protects and promotes life, brotherhood and communion,” the Pope writes. Our eternal reward hinges on our ability to reach out in love, and the Holy Father directs us to the parables of the Good Samaritan (in which the priest and Levite fail to assist the robbed man) and the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (where the rich man ignores Lazarus’ plight) as scriptural warnings.
The Pope continues, “What hinders this humane and loving gaze towards our brothers and sisters? Often it is the possession of material riches and a sense of sufficiency, but it can also be the tendency to put our own interests and problems above all else. . . . Our hearts should never be so wrapped up in our affairs and problems that they fail to hear the cry of the poor.”
2. The gift of reciprocity. Pope Benedict emphasizes that “our existence is related to that of others, for better or for worse. Both our sins and our acts of love have a social dimension. This reciprocity is seen in the Church, the mystical body of Christ: the community constantly does penance and asks for the forgiveness of the sins of its members, but also unfailingly rejoices in the examples of virtue and charity present in her midst. As Saint Paul says: ‘Each part should be equally concerned for all the others’ (1 Cor 12:25), for we all form one body.”
Our care for the poor among us is a manifestation of this connection in the Body of Christ. Lenten practices of self-denial and care for those in need are beautiful expressions of who we are as Christians, not unreasonable burdens.
3. Walking together in holiness. We walk the Christian path in solidarity with one another. Pope Benedict urges us to seek out opportunities for good works, and to strengthen one another in this journey: “The time granted us in this life is precious for discerning and performing good works in the love of God. . . .Sadly, there is always the temptation to become lukewarm, to quench the Spirit, to refuse to invest the talents we have received, for our own good and for the good of others. All of us have received spiritual or material riches meant to be used for the fulfillment of God’s plan, for the good of the Church and for our personal salvation.”
So, what practical things can we do this Lent to renew life within us by communion with our neighbor, along with prayer, almsgiving and fasting?:
- Donate any money saved from Lenten sacrifices to Operation Rice Bowl, or other charities.
- Make a neglected or strained relationship your project.
- Converse with every person who stops you seeking help. You may be the first person in a long time to acknowledge them as a human being.
- Volunteer at Catholic Charities.
- Visit the shut-ins of your parish or elderly in nursing homes, and just listen to them.
- In your interactions with others, imagine how Mary or St. Joseph might speak and act, and try to imitate them.
- Make one small act of charity each day without revealing yourself.
- Smile more, and at everyone.
Growth during Lent can be difficult work, but these growing pains are evidence that God is shaping us into the people we are meant to be.
*This article by Mark Rohlena, Esq., first appeared in The Colorado Catholic Herald in March of 2012.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mark C. Rohlena, Esq.
Mark has been interviewed by the New York Times best-selling author, Hugh Hewitt, and was recently cited on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. Mark is a monthly columnist with the Colorado Catholic Herald and His blog, The Charity of Christ has received national acclaim. Follow him at: http://www.thecharityofchrist.com
In February 2011, Mark joined Catholic Charities of Colorado Springs as the President & CEO. Previously, Mr. Rohlena had been serving as the Senior Ethics & Conflicts Attorney for Holland & Hart in Denver, the largest law firm in the Rocky Mountain region. Prior to that appointment, he was an attorney in Holland & Hart’s Litigation Department, focusing on commercial, employee benefits/ERISA, and utilities and communication litigation, as well as tax litigation and labor and employment law.
He is a member of the Colorado Bar Association, the Denver Bar Association, and Colorado Bar Association Ethics Committee as well as board member of the National Lawyers Association and the St. Thomas More Society of Colorado. Even as he practiced law, Mark volunteered at the Samaritan House Shelter in Denver, and assisted in a number of initiatives for the poor for several years before taking the helm at Catholic Charities.
Mr. Rohlena attended Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, a Liberal Arts College, where he double-majored in History and political Science/Economics. He was in the inaugural class of the Ave Maria School of Law. While there, he served as the Business Manager and an Editorial Board Member of the Ave Maria Law Review.