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The Season of Grace
by Maria Franco
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In life it is very important to pay close attention to the message that each season gives us, to delve into a deeper meaning, because life itself is a journey of emotions which is the most difficult of all.
Lent is a season of grace, a time when we season our lives not just with the mark of the ashes but also with the fundamentals of prayer, penance and more of arms giving… extending our hands in love to others, expressing our love in different forms, irrespective of whether this love is received or not, though it makes us wonder if is it too much to ask others to receive the love that we send with so much love and care.

Lent is also a time when we adhere to set rules and probably even go overboard at times in maintaining these rules, we keep a prayerful and holy vigil, it is our watch along with the Lord for forty days until we rejoice along with Him at Easter.
But lent goes far deeper than that, it calls for fasting not just in terms of food but also fasting from other means. This Lenten season, it is good to take to reading the Liturgy of the hours which brings a deep sense of fulfillment and grace since each word is anointed with the power of God. The Morning prayer (Lauds), the afternoon prayer (Vespers)and the Evening Prayer (Compline).

Lent is a time when we contemplate on the trials that Jesus faced. Our own trials can make us resilient on one hand, or helpless and bitter on the other. Before the start of His public ministry, the Lord sent His messenger ahead of him who was John the Baptist. Sometimes, we also send our messenger ahead of us before our arrival as our representative. If our messenger who comes on our behalf bearing our news is not welcomed then it is a direct rejection of our own self. When our message returns back to us, we are the only witness to the anguish, tears and pain wrought in our hearts. We then know exactly where we stand.

Love is not merely words but actions which are real. Peter denied Jesus three times in spite of knowing him so well. He had professed to love Jesus and it is amazing how he could have done such a thing, deny knowing the very person who was so close to him and thus hurting our Lord.
At times, we too are denied by others and we wonder if we have become non- existent while still on this earth. In life, it is not the material things that count, but the faith that is damaged, which becomes difficult to resurrect again and which makes all other forms of communication meaningless.

Time was a very essential factor in the life of Jesus. The time when He fasted, taught, prayed and went through His bitter passion. In life, what time teaches us nothing else can. Sometimes, time beckons an invitation to us and then disconnects us and when time itself has nothing to do with us, then there should be no more wasting of time. A tomorrow which is not in our favor is no tomorrow at all.
Of course, we do not expect Time to understand our feelings, our sentiments, the pain and inconveniences caused. Time is always misleading. But we still manage to stand on our own, because He who promised to be faithful to us from the heavens will never let us down like the world does.
The world may hurt and break us by their words and actions. It makes us ponder at times at our own vulnerability in giving others a chance to hurt us. But it is probably time teaching us an important lesson and we have no choice but to accept that this is the cross we have to bear.

When Jesus looked at the crowd closing in on him on His way to Calvary, he searched for a friendly face and was glad to see His mother at His side. Very often, we too long for a friendly word, for those who will accept us and not reject us. If love is unconditional, then why do people grieve us?
When we come down to earth time closes the chapter. The incomplete remains at a stand still. We are inclined take a bow before the curtain is brought down before time. A shroud of disbelief takes over. We take a back seat. Anguished moments will forever remain a scar in time. Time spells it loud and clear as to the part that cannot be reversed, the part that never happened.

As a child, I used to be very uncomfortable whenever the hymn; “Lord, I am coming home’” used to be sung during lent because somehow I had associated this song only with funerals.
My most vivid experience of this song being sung was at the funeral of my late Uncle who was a priest, he had died of a brain hemorrhage during the Lenten season and had been in coma for twelve days prior to passing away. His body had to be brought back to my home city from the parish where he was stationed as the parish priest. It was only two days after his death that the funeral was held. As this hymn was being sung just as the coffin had to be taken out from the church, my cousins and I who were sitting right next to it on the first bench saw tears flowing out of my Uncle’s eyes. We were astonished and after the service mentioned this to another Uncle who tried to explain to us that due to chemicals used for preserving his body for the transport purpose, a solution may have oozed out from his eyes.

But somehow, I was not convinced. Though I was only twelve years old at that time, I knew in my heart that what I had seen had been real tears and it had seemed like my Uncle himself was crying at the thought of leaving us all as he was deeply attached to each and every family member and also because he could feel our own grief at the moment as none of us could bear this parting, a life snuffed out before time. His candle burned out long before his legend ever would. Something similar to what the Lord felt on having to part from His disciples after the last Supper. His heart was heavy with grief but the hour could not be passed by.

During this Lenten season, let us dedicate time to the Lord, to be at His side, as He fasted for forty days on the mountain, as He went through His agony in the garden. Let us be with him on the journey to Calvary, at the foot of the Cross knowing He can look down and see us standing there to offer Him support.
Let us keep guard outside the garden tomb and let us all celebrate with Him His glorious resurrection at Easter. He undertook all this for our sake and without our support, it would all be empty. So in whatever way we can, let us express our love and solidarity during this solemn season. May we be a true witness to the deep love of our Lord.

Let us keep before our eyes, the image of the Crucified Lord and vow to follow Him only all the days of our life, to renounce the world. As St. Paul said in 2 COR 5:17-21; “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation, behold, new things have come. And all this is from God who has reconciled us to himself through Christ .”

The world is temporary, what awaits us above is the real life with God for eternity.
We may not be so confident to approach those in the world but we can always be confident of approaching the Lord because He will never reject or deny us. After all, from the cross, He left the mark of His gaze on our countenance.

Maria Franco

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