Lent is a time for reflection and its a time to ready ourselves for God’s unconditional love, forgiveness and grace. I love the concept of Lent but it has never been a particularly easy time for me and I have never been a model Lenten participant. Whether it’s a failure to make good on “giving something up” or “doing a good deed,” I often stumble as quickly as the ashes crumble off my forehead. And every year, when we welcome Easter, I look back on my Lenten effort and think “another season, another missed opportunity.”
To me, the true Lenten lessen is humbling ourselves before each other and the face of God. Until this year, I have always missed that lesson. The lesson of humility is not easy, nor always obvious. Sometimes it takes a person or a moment to bring clarity and awareness of what it means to be humble. In my case, it often takes several people and moments to get through my stubbornly, righteous, judgemental mind.
I believe that when we allow ourselves to honestly reflect on our lives, we find that Lent provides us a unique opportunity to open ourselves up to the examples of others. There are many people who have walked the Christian path and can provide us examples of how to be more humble human beings.
I often find inspiration and encouragement in the story of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Archbishop Romero was clearly a pious man. But he was not always known for meeting the people of God on the ground. Often a bookworm and sheltered in the stability and riches of the hierarchical Church, Romero’s defining moment of humility sadly came after the murder of his good friend Father Rutilio Grande, S.J. Grande was a man known for his solidarity and shared sacrifice with the poor of El Salvador. He spent much of his relatively short ministry among the poor peasants and farm workers. He knew their struggle and sought to support them and educate others. His practices for the poor, whom he loved, caused him to be brutally murdered. Archbishop Romero often cites Grande and his death as his moment of awareness and understanding on what it means to be humble before others and God.
For Romero the horrific loss of his friend during the Lenten season in 1977 turned out to be his awareness to humility. It is clear to me that none of my experiences will ever be at the level of Oscar Romero or Rutilio Grande. But we can all take pause and notice where our moments of humility lie. For me, my recent awareness to humility comes to me though the life of our 7 month old daughter, Anna Day. Katie and I were ready to be parents, we had long awaited the arrival of Anna, had practice with our nephews and felt confident that we knew what to do. These last few months have taught us that no matter how many children you have cared for, nothing can fully prepare you for the unpredictable nature of infants. Our daughter has a mind of her own and constantly reminds us that we can’t control everything, no matter how hard we try. She is our constant humble reminder to have faith and to rely on God.
It is only through faith that we will be able to become the people whom God calls us to be. It is only through Faith that Romero became the Bishop he needed to be. It is because of faith that Grande became the pastor he needed to be. And it is through faith that Katie and I will become the parents Anna needs us to be.
I like to set goals, meet them, and move on to the next challenge. Yet with Lent, I have often failed to meet my challenges. This has always been frustrating for me. This year, I have come to more fully understand humility and I hope that I will meet my goal of being a faith-filled loving father. I hope that like Romero, I may learn from the dedication and passion of Rutilio Grande and his legacy of courage to humble himself to see God in all people and live a life of faith, even when things are out our control.
Today marks the 37th anniversary of the death of Father Rutulio Grande, SJ of El Salvador.