A Reflection for Ash Wednesday by Sister Donna Fannon, MHSH
A few months ago I accompanied my nephew on a campus tour geared to prospective college students. The tour was led by an upper class student who belonged to a group called “College Ambassadors.” The student was welcoming and enthusiastic. He was trying to give a positive impression of his college as he walked backwards leading us through the campus in hopes that some young people in our group would be moved to apply for admission. My nephew seemed impressed and was listening to every word.
As the tour continued, I wondered what kind of an impression I have made on the people I have encountered over the years. In particular I was remembering the many international students I met as a campus minister. I recalled how my experience with them had helped to broaden my understanding of so many cultures around the world as well as how interconnected we are within the global marketplace. Then I remembered the times I have traveled abroad, and I wondered what kind of an impression I had given others about the United States.
In today’s Mass, the second reading quotes St. Paul calling us to reflect on a significant part of our life as Christians—representing Christ in the world. St. Paul tells us: “You are ‘ambassadors of Christ.’” [2Cor5:20] Who is this Christ we represent? Are we giving others a good impression of who Christ is by our example?
For sure, Jesus Christ knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was loved by God. Do you remember the scene at his baptism that is recounted in the gospels? “A voice from the heavens says: ‘This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.’” We know that Jesus Christ came to reveal the love of God the Father, to proclaim that God loves everyone and that God is with us always. Do you really believe that God loves you unconditionally? Do you believe that God will never stop loving you, no matter who you are or what you do, or where you go?
To deepen our relationship with God we must first see ourselves as valuable, as loveable, as good. It was the starting point for Jesus; it was the starting point for Mary (in Luke’s gospel, we hear the angel Gabriel address Mary with the words: “Rejoice, oh highly favored daughter” [Lk1:28]) and we also know it is the starting point for us. If we are to follow Jesus and do God’s will, we must believe this about ourselves—that God sees each of us as beloved sons and highly favored daughters. If we want to be “ambassadors of Christ”—we must let go of false images of ourselves and false ideas of what it means to be fulfilled and of what it means to be successful. We are o.k. as we are just because God created us and loves us.
And what about the impression we are giving? How do we live this out?
- We might feast on God’s goodness this Lent. Let’s feast on the Word of God so we can grow in our understanding of God’s love for us—daily Scripture readings can easily be found on line at the US Bishops’ website: <http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings>
- Let’s live in a way that is healthy–a way that proclaims that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and images of Christ—by eating sensibly, exercising adequately and getting sufficient rest.
- Let’s pay attention to the wonder that we are—the handiwork of God—by availing ourselves of quiet time with God. Begin with a few minutes of silence each day and remember that you are in the presence of God.
Finally, let’s share some of our wealth with others.
- Our material wealth: Perhaps you belong to a local parish that distributes “Rice Bowls” to parishioners for Lent. Each time you drop a coin in your Rice Bowl, remember the migrants throughout the world who are in need of food, shelter and water everyday.
- The wealth of our time: Volunteer to serve a meal at a local soup kitchen, shelter for the homeless or a local senior center.
- The wealth of our compassion: Read the newspaper more intentionally by seeking out articles that inform you about people who are affected by poverty, power mongering, gender biases, lack of access to basic education.
Can you notice how paying attention to these realities (and other injustices) effect your own temperament and well-being? Can you detect a desire rising out of your heart that draws you to look for some small way that you can act for justice?
I invite you (and I), as an “Ambassador of Christ” to consider living deliberately this Lent–feasting on God’s Word, living in a healthy way, sharing with and advocating for the poor and powerless. If we are diligent, we will be pleasantly surprised when Easter comes at how much closer we will feel to God, how we see the world the way God sees it, and we may discover a desire to make a difference in imitating the example of Christ.