Monday, February 15, 2016

First Monday of Lent: A True Shrine

"The shrine of God is the faces of the many people we encounter each day.”Pope Francis at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico 

Last week, Pope Francis spent 20 minutes praying silently before the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe after celebrating Mass for over 40,000 pilgrims. I can imagine a palpable energy in the basilica and surrounding courtyards where the crowd gathered: a private moment that serves as a public witness to the grace that nourishes and drives his life.

In calling Juan Diego to build and care for the shrine, Mary “managed to awaken something he did not know how to express, a veritable banner of love and justice: no one could be left out in the building of that other shrine: the shrine of life, the shrine of our communities, our societies and our cultures.” The physical shrine draws our attention to the humble witness of Mary herself, as well as Juan Diego in his responding to Mary’s invitation. Yet, Pope Francis reminds us that the true call is to recognize the people in our lives who are suffering and in need as being the sacred place where God resides.

Today’s readings similarly challenge us to more than simply obeying the commandments and checking off the right things to do. In Lent there can be a huge temptation to reduce Lenten observances to fasting from meat on Fridays and giving up an obligatory daily indulgence. The Gospel and Pope Francis’ visit both draw our attention to wholeheartedly giving of ourselves: that in being fully present, we are more present to God.

What if today I spent 20 minutes gazing at the image of a person with whom I struggle? Without forcing or willing myself to love… could I imagine your face present in this person? Lord, is there somewhere you are inviting me to look a little longer today, with you?

reflected by Jen Coito

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