Ash Wednesday

LTC-Ash-Wednesday-hires-original

Original Artwork by William Nelson

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness,
and relenting in punishment.

Joel 2: 12-13

As each Lenten Season, this one begins with the call of the Prophet Joel to “return” to God with our whole heart.  This year’s Lenten Reflections will ask of us to undertake a journey of return from those dispositions of heart that lead us astray from a “wholehearted” walking with the Lord.  For the human way is a way that is never a direct line to our most desired end.  It is rather a process of trial and error.  Lent is the season of the Church year where we are called to attend to the ways we have walked our path in the past year and to recognize where we have strayed from the Lord’s Way for us.  We do this in the faith, the “con-fidence,” that God is gracious and merciful and longs for our return.

The journey we share through this year’s Lenten Reflections asks us to engage in the following practices:

  • Reading and reflection on excerpts from the Liturgical texts for each week, as well as excerpts from the Fundamental Principles and the Preamble to the Charism Description.
  • A meditative self-reflection in light of these readings and an intuitive sense of our deepest desires which we begin to recognize and appropriate.
  • Spending some time each day, or each week, in writing, sketching, or otherwise noting (whatever works for you) the fruit of the day’s or week’s reflection in order to enable the following goal by the end of Lent.
  • A discernment of some specific practices that can be incorporated over the course of the coming months to facilitate our “return” to the Lord’s unique ways for us and the diminishing of the effects of those habits or dispositions we have developed that lead us astray from our unique Divine Call.  We may refer to these practices as “a personal rule of life” within the Xaverian tradition.
  • This personal rule of life can be a source for one’s daily examen, as well as for shared direction-in-common in our various communities, families, Associates’ groups, or other gatherings.

During these initial days of Lent, reflect on the call of the Scriptures to “return to the Lord.” Ponder this call to return in light of the following readings from the Xaverian tradition.

You were created by the God of love
in God’s image and according to God’s likeness,
to be a unique expression of that love.
It is through you
that God desires to manifest Love
to the peoples of the world in these times,
and to offer them the freedom of the children of God

Fundamental Principles

Through the Xaverian Way we are awakened by the Spirit of God to our own graced potential and freely offer that giftedness in service to the Gospel.

Preamble to A Description of the Xaverian Charism

Exercise

The great 20th century religious thinker Martin Buber has written:

Our foremost task, therefore, is the actualizing of our unique, unprecedented, and never-recurring potentialities, and not the repetition of something that another, even the greatest, has already achieved. The way by which we can reach God is revealed to us only through the knowledge of our essential qualities and inclinations. We discover this essential quality through perceiving our central wish, the strongest feeling which stirs our inmost being. If we lend our will to the direction of our passions, we begin the movement of hallowing which God completes. In this hallowing the total person is accepted, confirmed, and fulfilled. This is the true integration of the human person.

As I reflect on my life, can I recall a moment or moments when, in retrospect, I realized that I was living out, expressing in word and action, my central wish? That is, can I recall living out my life from its depth in an experience of flow and fullness? Some ways we can identify such an experience are:

  • Was our presence and action seemingly effortless?
  • Did we feel such total engagement with the other and in the situation that we were forgetful of self?
  • In retrospect, did I realize that my speech and action seemed to be coming from something or someone beyond myself?
  • As I remember the experience, did I feel deep contentment and enjoyment in it?

Once identified, spend some time thinking about this experience and writing about it in a merely descriptive and non-introspective or analytical way. What were the distinctive aspects of this experience, and what do I recognize in it as being an expression of my unique life call and life direction?

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