A few Sundays ago, our Pastor gave an amazing homily on the meaning of Lent. I never knew that Lent actually means “Spring” and as such, we are called to use these 40 days as a form of “spring cleaning for the soul”. As I continued to reflect on this message, I found it important to share with all of you. After losing a loved one, it’s common for all our prayers, thoughts, and intentions to be for those who we’ve lost. However, Lent is a special season for us to focus on ourselves and on our relationship with the Lord.
This time in the Liturgical year encourages us to look inward. Upon self-reflection and practicing some spiritual self-care, we can face our imperfections – the things we try to hide most from God and from the world. Through prayer, we can uncover places of anger, hurt, confusion, or sadness. We can begin to heal wounds left from life’s most challenging moments. Through all of this, we can find Christ loving us unconditionally.
Life on this Earth is a challenging journey, but we are blessed to have the Church as a guide. By seeking out the sacraments, spending time in prayer, and finding Christ in all we do, we better prepare ourselves for the life that awaits us in paradise.
During these remaining days of Lent, I encourage you to spend some alone time with the Lord. Focus on yourself and how you can better prepare your soul for the Resurrection that we will joyfully celebrate in just a few short weeks.
A room left with memories intact, a home that now reminds us of what we have lost, our phones with so many photographs and videos that bring tears and smiles. As we begin our Lenten journey, many are confronted by the challenges of the loss of someone we loved. How do we focus on celebrating Easter when our loss can be so consuming? The Lenten season is an opportunity to reflect; marked as a time of fasting and of self-denial, it is a time to remember our connection to Christ and His journey toward our Resurrection. We enter the desert with Him to reaffirm our relationship with God.
The devastating loss of someone we love is like entering your own personal desert – one you may not want to journey through. It is in these moments of despair that we must remember that we are walking in the footsteps of Christ. His journey toward the Cross guides us through the darkness toward the promise fulfilled on that first Easter morning.
God sent His only son to become fully human – to know, and feel, and experience humanity in all its forms, including great suffering. However, Jesus was not sent to suffer in vain, but to help us grow closer to God through our suffering. When you reflect on Christ’s life starting with His 40 days in the desert through the time He was nailed to the cross, you’ll find that His journey was filled with great pain. He could have questioned God’s will, but He instead accepted it fully, knowing that God’s plan is perfect. One need only look to the empty tomb as a sign of this truth. We must trust in the Lord just as Jesus did. While we will endure much suffering in this world, we cannot let that overshadow what we believe; that our souls will be welcomed into paradise.
During this Lenten season, I encourage you to bask in God’s love. Bring your suffering to Him. Understand that the suffering you experience on this earth is preparing you for the hope of eternal life with God in paradise. Death is not the end.
Pope Francis has dubbed this new Liturgical year the “Year of St. Joseph”. When I took time to reflect on this decision, I tried to place myself in Joseph’s shoes. He was an “ordinary” man. He came from humble beginnings, he was born with sin (unlike his wife, Mary), and he was a faithful man who tried to live in accordance with God’s word. Now I imagine him discovering that his wife Mary is with child – a child he did not conceive. His whole world shifted in that moment. He uprooted his entire life to serve and protect a child that was not his by blood. He made sacrifices every day to ensure the safety of Jesus and Mary, all the while accepting the unpredictable path God laid for him.
Joseph is a reminder to us all that, while we may be “ordinary” people, we are called to love others just as God the Father loves us. Sometimes it can be hard for us to comprehend who God the Father is. Yes, we can see glimpses of Him through art, in the Mass, or in our personal prayer. However – we must remember that God is everywhere, which means He dwells within each of us. Just as Joseph was called, we will all be called to make great sacrifices in our lives. God understands this form of suffering, as He sent His son Jesus to experience every human thing. He knows we are broken. He sees our weakness and our temptation toward sin. He knows how hard some sacrifices are to make. However, just like Joseph, we can find strength through God to carry us through these hard times.
So as we celebrate Joseph this year, let us remember and acknowledge the sacrifices he made. May we embody the same strength he carried with him – and let us be ever grateful for the guidance he provided to the man who would become the Christ – who now leads us to paradise.
For many, the holidays bring a mix of sadness and joy. While we anticipate the coming of Christ, the family traditions, and the warm holiday greetings, this time also reminds us of those we’ve lost. Whether we remember them through photographs, include them in toasts, or share memories of them over Christmas dinner, there is a sense of sadness that cannot and should not be denied.
It is not a bad thing to feel sadness over the holidays. However, amidst that sadness we must also turn to our faith and recognize that, while our loved ones may not be with us, they have begun a journey that was started over 2,000 years ago. Christ laid down His life for us, and opened the door for us to experience eternal joy with our Heavenly Father. Though we miss being with our loved ones physically, there is so much joy to be found in their hopeful reunion with the Lord.
While our world is filled with many tragedies, and while this year has certainly been one of great difficulty, I’ve witnessed time and time again how faith can lift someone out of deep despair. There is no way to avoid suffering in this world, but by allowing the Divine to enter into our hearts, joy can pierce through the pain and give us glimpses of hope and peace.
My prayer this Christmas is that we may all open our hearts to God’s love and take comfort in knowing of the abundant joy He wishes to share with us.
The 2020 holiday season is looking far different than any other we’ve experienced. While Thanksgiving presented its own challenges in terms of gathering together, the Advent season is special in that festivities tend to be scheduled through the entire month of December. This year, as we are called to stay home and remain physically distant, we may all be grieving the loss of our “normal holiday.” For those who have lost a loved one, this holiday season may seem even more daunting, as the friends and family you could normally rely on for support and companionship during the holidays may not feel comfortable expanding their quarantine bubble. As we all continue to navigate this unprecedented time, there are some creative ways to stay connected to those you love while also staying safe.
Explore Virtual Options
We are lucky to live in a very modern world. While nothing can replace being together in person, video chat is a very close second! Being able to see and talk with your family in real time can help you feel connected and grounded in the present. It can also be a gentle reminder to expand your perspective beyond the scope of your own home. Try to find a video chat service that works for your family, and let them know you’d like to make video calls a priority this holiday season.
Stay Outdoors and Separated
If technology isn’t your strong suit and you desperately need to see your loved ones over the holidays, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends gathering outdoors, maintaining a 6ft distance between households, and wearing masks. While staying outdoors may not be very comfortable on cold winter days, it’s much safer than an indoor visit. You can make things cozier by bundling up with plenty of blankets and grabbing a thermos of coffee or hot cocoa to stay warm. Taking a winter walk is also a nice way to spend time with loved ones while remaining socially distant. If the weather is just too cold to be outside but you’d still like to see your loved ones in person, try parking your cars near each other with the windows rolled up while using cellphones to talk!
There are countless other ways to stay connected with loved ones while staying safe. For instance, you could start a dish exchange, where you take turns dropping off special holiday dishes to your loved one’s doorstep. You could also host a virtual family gift exchange, where each family member mails their gifts to each other to open together over video chat. You can take pictures of your Christmas trees and decorations to share when you’re able to gather again – or maybe even print the photos and send in an “old fashioned” Christmas card. You can watch a favorite Christmas movie at the same time and talk after… the possibilities go on!
Rely on Your Faith
This time of isolation can be a good opportunity to deepen your relationship with the Lord. Make sure to watch Mass livestreams, read scripture, and find time to pray. Not only will the Lord grant you peace and comfort, but staying connected to your faith and to the Church will help you establish a sense of community that goes beyond the physical sense of the word. God is always with you and, as His beloved child, you are called into a community that spans the entire universe. You are never truly alone, as God is always with you.