Lent: You Have Been Lent

Author: Fr. P.A. Devadoss, C.S.C.

Cross in Lent at Moreau Seminary

The word “Lent” reminds us of self-denial, penance, almsgiving, and the designated liturgical time of special concern for the needy and poor. However the word "lent" is the past tense of “lend”. Then what or why or to whom did God lend you?

This century seems to be a century of contrasts and contradictions. With the fast growing social networks, the world has come so near and yet remains so far. Information and news travel faster, and we are instantaneously linked with one another and the world. We get so excited with what we see and hear, and cool down so rapidly and care less to what happens in and around us. This Lenten season reminds us to become aware that we are subtly being changed by the world instead of being the catalysts of change.

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What happens in Indiana seemed to reach the other end of the world in a split second, and we can witness the same incident as if we were in that actual spot – so much so, the mind treats casually and insensitively suffering and injustice. Whereas Lent, the sensitizing season, on the other hand, cautions us about the loss of our sensitiveness to respond adequately.

We have heard people say: “It is none of my business. It is not my problem. Why should I get involved? Why should I unnecessarily soil my hands? Why should I suffer for the other? Let them manage their affairs.” These words tend to make our God into a god, hard of hearing. When will we realize that the kernel message of Lent is caring and witnessing to the people in material, moral, and spiritual destitution who are hungering to see Emmanuel in our humaneness?

Our present Pope in his recent address to 120 Superiors General, alerted them saying, “The Church must be attractive and grow through witness. The witness that can really attract is associated with attitudes which are uncommon: generosity, detachment, sacrifice, self-forgetfulness in order to care for others. This is the witness: the martyrdom of religious life. Wake up the world! Be witnesses of a different way of doing things, of acting, of living!”

Blessed Basile Moreau

Blessed Basile Moreau, 159 years ago, wrote: “I remained long hours in the Chapel. And what did I do there? I went from station to station seeking for a ray of light, for a single thought … and I found nothing, absolutely nothing. I returned to the sanctuary. I mounted the steps of the altar. I knocked at the door of the tabernacle. I waited but I received no response, not even the least encouragement. I understood, then, something of the abandonment of Christ, our Lord, in His agony as He went from His Father to His disciples without finding any relief.”

The above quote of Fr. Moreau sounds quite similar to what Jesus had gone through in the Garden of Gethsemane. The only difference between the two is the content and not the form. Fr. Moreau understood that enduring pain, suffering for others, standing up alone for the cause of the well-being of the confreres and Congregation, and facing the abandonment in his aloneness are endurable only by being born in Jesus. 

Therefore, Blessed Moreau clearly understood that by imitating Jesus he cannot be His disciple.

This sentence may sound quite contrary and even odd to what we have known or heard so far. Imitating Jesus means is allowing Him to be born in us, but what actually happens in Fr. Moreau’s life is that Fr. Moreau is born in Jesus. When we allow Jesus to be born in us, we permit him to take our form; whereas when we allow ourselves to be born in Him, we take His form. Thus the disciple does not imitate his master but seeks guidance from the master to attain Self-realization through his uniqueness and also to become a “man who was lent” through the paschal mystery (suffering, death and resurrection).  

In the same vein, Moreau invites us “to spend ourselves and be spent for the needs of neighbors; to be available and cheerful as a friend in Holy Cross and give witness while others hesitate; to stand by duty when it has become all burden and no delight.”

Therefore, this Lent, let us remember we have been “lent” to be spent for the needs of others.

This reflection on the Season of Lent was written by Fr. P.A. Devadoss, C.S.C., who is the former Provincial of the South India Province.