In the final days of lent with Easter fast approaching, and all the hub-ub surrounding the election of our wonderful New Pope Francis, not much has been said regarding the Year of Faith, which began October 11, 2012, and ends November 24, 2013. We are deep in a season of conversion, deeper still in a year dedicated to the same goal.
When the calling is fresh, ambitions are high. At the promptings of an amazing priest, my aim for Lent was to “fall more in love with Jesus” through prayer, attending daily Mass, spending time in Adoration, and reading Scripture. Such wonderful, simple things that I love to do, but somehow life squeezes me too much, and it seems all I am capable of is pitiful prayer and sleepy scriptures.
At the encouragement of our holy bishop, my aim for the Year of Faith was to read three of the documents of Vatican II. I am working my way through Lumen Gentium, which is Latin for “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.” Don’t let the lofty title scare you – it is one of the most beautiful texts ever written. I am especially fond of the following passages in the section on the Laity:
From paragraph 31 “It is the special vocation of the laity to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will… They are called by God to contribute to the sanctification of the world from within, like leaven, in the spirit of the Gospel, by fulfilling their own particular duties. Thus, especially by the witness of their life, resplendent in faith, hope, and charity they manifest Christ to others. It is their special task to illuminate and order all temporal matters in which they are closely involved in such a way that these are always carried out and develop in Christ’s way and to the praise of the Creator and Redeemer.”
From paragraph 34 “For all their works, if accomplished in the Spirit, become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ: their prayers and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation of mind and body, even the hardships of life if patiently borne. In the celebration of the Eucharist, these are offered to the Father in all piety along with the body of the Lord. And so, worshipping everywhere by their holy actions, the laity consecrate the world itself to God.”
We live in a world where physical beauty is all around us. It can be hard to look at someone who is deformed, or severely burned, or undernourished, or near death. It can be hard to see them as beautiful. Suffering is scary. Souls have a beauty too, and it occurred to me today that mine is without a doubt leprous. Pride, fear, selfishness, uncertainty, ingratitude, and insecurity are all bulging, bruising, pussing, repulsive sores on my soul that prevent me from loving God and allowing Him to love me. I am so glad that God is not afraid of suffering, and loves me as though I was beautiful.
When the calling gets hard, or boring, the soul-eating disease can cause us to grow depressed, impatient, and to lose motivation. We have so far to go on our goals, and the progress is so slow that it looks like failure.
Which is why these passages are so amazing. They affirm our dignity loudly and clearly:
You can do this!
What you do matters!
What you try to do matters!
Do what you can!
The Church is on your side!
God is on your side!