A Lent Reflection

Why do I make my life so busy?

I have always been busy, and I’ve always had excuses.  For many years as a working wife and mother, my life was full, happy and slightly frantic. Now that I am retired, my life remains full and happy, but still remains too frantic and busy.  As I try to add more time for reflection during Lent, it’s also a good time to look at why I’m having such a difficult time slowing down to pray.  Have I made myself too busy to “do Lent”?   In these weeks, we can reflect and pray with our calendars and look at the patterns that we have perhaps mindlessly followed for decades, including those habits that keep us from a greater closeness with God.

St. Ignatius wrote that each one of us is created to praise, reverence and serve God and by doing those three things we will become our happiest and best selves.  From there, everything that comes into our lives will either help us to praise, reverence and serve, or will draw us away from that intimacy with our Creator.

So how do our calendars fit into this?  St. Ignatius suggests a regular, prayerful review of our day and to note when and where we found closeness with God and when we did not.  Perhaps a regular examination of our schedules can be a similar exercise.  But part of making room in my day for more frequent and deeper reflection, is clearing out my mind and heart from fear and anxiety. 

Asking for the grace to do things more peacefully, with more courage and trust, is a real Lenten journey.  It places me more closely with Jesus.  It prepares me to celebrate the mystery of his death and resurrection for me.  The Lenten purification becomes a releasing from fear and distress.  I may not free up more time, but I will become freer to do what I do with more boldness and with less energy lost on anxiety.

When we look at our calendars for the week or month ahead, do we see any blank spaces for prayer and reflection?  Lately I have filled my calendar with a community project focused on race in the United States.  That’s a good thing, isn’t it?  Of course, it is. 

   For I was hungry and you gave me food

Yet, if I pray with my calendar and ask God to open my heart, perhaps I see a glimmer that I also get to “shine” by working on this.  Yes, this is a good venture, but perhaps a second motivation is that I enjoy people telling me how much I contribute to this.  It is a good thing to be able to be a vital part of it, but how much space have I given in my calendar – or my life - for silence and listening?

   I was thirsty and you gave me drink

Serving on a parish or community project is wonderful.   But will it allow us time to care for those who might need our attention a little more?  How much of that parish work do we do because we are told how invaluable our work is?  Is it really where the greatest need is?

   I was a refugee and you welcomed me

Are we choosing to do things that feel good for us and fit our comfort zones?  Do we neglect those ventures where we may be more hidden but more desperately needed?  What are our real motivations?

   I was naked and you clothed me

In a quiet moment of silent prayer, we can ask God to help us see our busy-ness with his loving gaze on us.  If we have been asked to add yet another meeting or project to our calendar, we can ask how this will draw us closer to God? Which is a stronger motivation:  This obligation will give us a chance to be flattered?  Or this will help us to better praise, love or serve God?

   I was sick and you cared for me

As humans, each one of us has mixed motivations about so many things.  Contributing to a wonderful project is good.  Hearing how wonderful I am is a thrilling, but perhaps addictive, side effect, that goes along with that.  St. Ignatius knew the human heart so well and knew that our best intentions can be mixed.  He suggests that when we are unsure of our real motivations, we pray for the desire to do to fulfill this project as a way to increase our love and service to God.

When I look through my calendar for the weeks ahead, I have to ask myself in front of my loving God: What it is about being so busy that will draw me closer to God?  I have to admit that the answer is less clear than I want it to be.

As we sit in the silence, we open our hearts and ask Jesus to give us the desire that all our appointments, obligations and commitments are for the greater glory of God - not ourselves.    At this point in Lent, we can bow low in humility and gratitude for the great love and understanding Jesus offers us. 
And we can echo John the Baptist as we pray to a faithful and loving Jesus:

You must increase; I must decrease.

Maureen McCann Waldron

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