An invitation to prepare for a long journey
"Lent comes providentially to reawaken us, to shake us from our lethargy," Pope Francis said. It is an invitation to a journey like Jesus’ journey into the wilderness for forty days, where he endured temptations from the devil and prepared himself to begin his ministry. Lent is not for the faint of heart, but for many of us, the timing couldn’t be better.
This present moment is a wilderness time. We are living in a world of uncertainty, insecure about what the future holds and unsure of our place in it. Just when we are feeling untethered and adrift, Lent invites us to a time of self-examination and reflection and offers us the tools – simple living, prayer, and fasting – to grow closer to God.
The journey of Lent can be tough – a time of repentance, of giving up things that tie us to this world and looking instead to the life and teachings of Jesus. But when we courageously examine within, name what is broken within us, turn away from it, and turn toward what is truly good, we will find ourselves living the fullness of life that God wants for each of us.
The life and teachings of Jesus help us understand what the fullness of life looks like: love, inclusion, forgiveness, mercy, sacrifice – and nonviolence.
“This word [nonviolence] most effectively characterizes Jesus’ way,” wrote Ken Butigan, director of Pace e Bene and Father John Dear, nonviolence activist, in a background paper for the Nonviolence and Just Peace conference in Rome in April 2016, “a way that combines both an unmistakable rejection of violence and the power of love and truth in action for justice, peace and integrity of creation.”
“Nonviolence is a clearer way to understand Jesus’ vision than even love and peace by themselves, because we can use these terms but at the same time support violence and war. This is more difficult with nonviolence. The word nonviolence illuminates the heart of the Gospel – the proclamation of the Reign of God, a new nonviolent order rooted in God’s unconditional love.”
The word nonviolence may stir up many feelings. Welcome these feelings with openness and curiosity as the first steps on the Lenten journey, and trust in the Gospel message for Ash Wednesday: Privately practice the disciplines of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting “and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
Questions for Reflection
What feelings arise when you hear the word nonviolence?
What disciplines will you practice this Lent?
Blessed are the peacemakers, you said, O Lord, for they shall be called children of God.
We ask you, Lord, to forgive us for the times we’ve caused division or misunderstanding in our communities.
We know that communion is not achieved through coercion, but through constant conversion.
We ask for the grace to not speak ill, not criticize, not to be sowers of strife, so that peace can reign in our hearts. From this conversion of the heart, Lord, lead us to a version in actions.
First in our hearts, then in our world Incarnate the power of gospel nonviolence.
Give us the imagination to overcome all forms of violence with creative nonviolence.
Revive in our church’s theology of peace The nonviolent message of Jesus,
That once again our churches may be centers of learning for nonviolence and just peace, centers of conversion from violence to peace, and from loneliness to joy. Amen.
– “A Prayer for Conversion to Gospel Nonviolence” by the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, https://nonviolencejustpeace.net/
Turn off anything that supports violence on TV, movies, and the internet.
Grow in peace with yourself by counting your blessings instead of disappointments each day.
Adopt a nonviolent practice from the list “64 ways to practice nonviolence.” http://bit.ly/64waysNonviolence
Read Pope Francis’ message for World Day of Peace entitled “Nonviolence: A style of politics for peace.” Then gather your faith community to ask: How might the Holy Spirit be calling us to be creative and active peacemakers? http://bit.ly/WorldDayofPeace2017
Endorse the appeal to the Catholic Church to re-commit to the centrality of Gospel nonviolence, the final statement of the Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference held in Rome in 2016 http://bit.ly/NVJustPeace2016
A Maryknoll Missioner says...
“Every year, a seminarian is with me during one month. [John] and I bicycled together to distant villages searching for children in need of hospitalization. As we explained our intention to be of use to poor children in need of surgery, a villager declared with astonishment: ‘I did not know there are people like you.’” “[John] was impressed to see how positively Muslims respond to compassion shown to their needy ones by Christians. Those Muslims, by their tolerance for our religion and appreciation for persons who live merciful lives, enable us to evangelize by our love for the poor.”
– FATHER BOB McCAHILL Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, Bangladesh