I want this Lent to be different. I think I have said this before but this year with greater intention. I want the Lord to transform my heart. And I’m ready to give it fully to Him as much as I can. The daily reading from Isaiah today sums it up pretty perfectly. The Lord is looking for humble and contrite hearts. Not empty sacrifice. I want to fast from anything keeping me from having a humble and contrite heart. Who better to model this, after the Lord Jesus, than His mother, my mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Let it be done to me as you say.
Through the church I go to in Copenhagen, I am doing an Ignatian Lenten Retreat. I meet with a spiritual director virtually once a week, and she gives me passages from Scripture to pray with by Ignatian meditation. Kate is my spiritual director. I got to pick her from a group of directors, and crazy enough, she is from Chicago. On our first call, we learned a little bit about each other. I told her about where I am with my relationship with the Lord and why I want to take part in this retreat. Above all, I want to love the Lord with all my heart, all my mind, and all my strength. This is the first of the petitions of the Blessed Mother.
“Secondly, I asked for grace, that I might be able to love my neighbor, according to His will and good pleasure, and that I might love all things which He loves and chooses.”
To love in this way, I know I must detach from some things. From self-preservation. From pride. From people pleasing. From selfishness. I want to love in a humble and meek way. A hidden way. Like mothers do.
I am already looking so forward to this Lent because of the Ignatian retreat, but also, I start my consecration to Blessed Mary tomorrow, on the Feast of the Annunciation. Where Mary gives her yes, her fiat, to be the mother of the Son of God.
Not a coincidence, then, that the first passage in Scripture Kate gave me to pray with is the Nativity. The sequel to the Annunciation in the Gospel of Luke. Going to St. Joseph as my spiritual father, I want to also go to Mary and know the humble and loving way of the Holy Family. And what a place to begin to know them, the birth of Jesus.
In adoration today before mass, I was praying with the Nativity story in Luke. The Ignatian way of meditation is to let yourself enter into the story, wherever and however it may be. I couldn’t help seeing “The Chosen” special Christmas episode of the birth of Jesus in my head. I focused on one of the shepherds, in particular, the one a bit outcasted by the others. His foot is injured, so he walks with a cane to help him limp along. After seeing the angel in the sky proclaiming the birth of the Christ, he is the first to find Mary and Joseph. Running as fast as he could. Forgetting his impairment altogether.
He sees baby Jesus in Mary’s arms, and tears fall slowly from his eyes. A joy welling up from the depths of his heart. Joseph and Mary look at each other, smiling, and Mary extends her newborn Child in the direction of the shepherd, on his knees.
I was him. Mary was extending the Messiah, wrapped in swaddling clothes, to me. The Christ Child. The Baby King. I was terrified.
Who am I to hold my Lord and Savior? Who am I to be loved in this way? On no merit of my own. I am not worthy.
Stuck in this moment, I wanted to hold Him, but I was afraid. Every what if scenario flashed through my mind. Then this.
“Only the lowly can receive the joy of Christ.”
To hold a newborn baby, you have to be totally focused in on this precious life. You can’t be holding onto anything else. Hands free for only this task. Mary opened her hands, opened her heart to the message from the angel Gabriel. The lowly and humble have nothing to hold onto. Their hands are always open.
To hold the Baby Jesus, I have to let everything else go. To follow Him, I have to leave everything else behind. This is the beauty of Lent. Lent allows detachment from all else to nurture humble and contrite hearts, to hold onto something much more precious and much more abundant with life. The Christ Child Himself.
As I was going up to receive the Eucharist, it was Mary extending her newborn Son to me. I took Him into my hands, captivated by His small cheeks and majesty, and said, “amen.” Yes, Lord. Let it be done to me according to Your will.
I love you dad,