For much of this winter, we have felt like we were making our way through the Alps. Given the record snowfalls we have experienced, when we heard a new forecast of 2 to 5 inches, we described it as "mostly cloudy."
Snow does provide its challenges: raking roofs, clearing sidewalks and streets, releasing cars from the igloos that surround them, assisting people who are unable to help themselves, restoring power lines, riding snowmobiles to rescue those who are stranded. Everyone has a litany of stories, accompanied by backaches and paralysis throughout the body to flavor the accounts.
When the whiteouts begin to disappear and the snowdrifts are leveled, we do recognize that snow quiets the city and beautifies the landscape. It brings a soft-focus lens to the camera of our eyes. Snow provides an Impressionistic view to our surroundings. Just as with a masterpiece of an Impressionist painter, we have to stand at a certain distance to receive the full impact of the picture.
When the major attack of a storm has subsided, snow can be conducive to contemplation, to interior pondering, to discernment, to deeper reflection. In response to these developments of nature, we look to God Who is the author of all we are and, through all the turmoils of life, our ultimate destiny.
The sacred season of Lent is approaching, with Ash Wednesday on March 9. Lent is a time for focusing on a more profound examination of our lives. It offers us both a distance and a nearness to see where our lives have been and where we are going. We call on the Holy Spirit to assist us as we think of development in the world around us. Yes, we have survived a century of Nazism, Fascism, Communism and totalitarian governments, but where are we going now? Terrorism continues to increase its growing threat to civilization.
The world around us manifests an increasing expanse of secularism. It is a new paganism, a new atheism. It challenges us to come to grips with the people we truly are, our authentic selves. Lent calls us to recognize the DNA of our lives, our abiding faith in love for God. While secularism attacks the foundations of our society, we recognize that we have to strengthen, in God’s grace, our internal balance. We respond to God’s call for spiritual growth.
It is said, from time to time, that our educational services should be more Catholic, our social services should be more Catholic, our medical services should be more Catholic, our pastoral services should be more Catholic. There can be truth in these statements, and we must work to bring greater meaning to these efforts. We must, however, bring the question back to ourselves. How can we be more Catholic? When we reflect on our interior lives in Lent, how do we assess our Catholic profile? With no hint of boasting, how do we appraise our core competence, our active life of faith?
Lent calls us to the basics, the fundamental practices of the spiritual life: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. They are at the center of the Sermon on the Mount; and they call us to our fundamental identity. Lent highlights the rampant brokenness so typical of the secularism in our society and offers us the gift of being more fully alive. We value more acutely the cultural roots in which our faith is grounded. We recognize our vocation to be disciples of effective charity and messengers of the Gospel. We aspire to be missionaries of the Good News of Jesus Christ, by what we say and especially by what we do.
On March 5 and 6, we have the official opening of the 2011 Archbishop’s Annual Appeal. The theme is "Miracle of Sharing." People who give are often asked why they make their gifts. So frequently they say, "I have received so much. I have a responsibility to share, to give back." That conviction produces in God’s grace multiple miracles for people in need. It is a profound expression of strong prayer.
In all our efforts, we know that the Eucharist is our center, the source and summit of our lives. As we renew our own loyalty to the Mass, may we encourage others to come along and experience the richness it brings. At the Easter Vigil in our parishes, we will see wonderful numbers of people becoming Catholic and bringing new enthusiasm to our Church. It is always people who make the difference. Each one of us is called to make us a better Church and a better world.
The soliloquy at the beginning of William Shakespeare’s play, Richard III, opens with the following words: "Now is the winter of our discontent Made glorious summer by this sun of York; And all the clouds that lowered upon our house In the deep bosom of the ocean buried." As we move from the snows of the winter to the bright promise of spring and the surpassing joy of Easter, may our prayer to God bring us closer to Him and make us more effective servants of our brothers and sisters. From every perspective, this is our Catholic identity.
The soliloquy at the beginning of William Shakespeare’s play, Richard III, opens with the following words:
"Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lowered upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried."
As we move from the snows of the winter to the bright promise of spring and the surpassing joy of Easter, may our prayer to God bring us closer to Him and make us more effective servants of our brothers and sisters. From every perspective, this is our Catholic identity.