Second Sunday in Lent

“Jesus led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.” A retreat is a wonderful opportunity to escape from the busyness of life and enter the sacredness of silence to encounter Christ on his journey to Jerusalem and our journey from repentance to holiness. Retreating is an opportunity to determine the wrong turns we have made and in prayer, ask the Lord for strength and guidance. One of my favorite books to retreat with is “Journal of a Soul” by Pope Saint John XXIII. It captures the spiritual development of his prayer life and his own journey to holiness. It is a beautiful example of the process a person goes through in turning away from the things that cause us to sin and turning towards the Way of the Lord, mainly following the Lord’s commandments of love and forgiveness. Over time, John XXIII developed a deeply disciplined prayer life grounded on Christian virtues. He celebrated the Sacrament of Penance regularly because he said that even the slightest sin causes a ripple effect to the entire Body of Christ. The Spiritual Fathers described this process to holiness as a journey up a mountain where the bottom is the starting point or the beginning of life and the top represents our end, our goal, which is being reunited with God. This requires us to go through a purification process whereby we become aware of our sinfulness and through prayer and perseverance separate ourselves from worldly things such as materialism, pride, noise, selfishness and attach ourselves to heavenly things in order to ascend to the top of the mountain where God awaits us with open arms and a loving embrace. Like any journey, we have to determine what we need for the trip and determine how to arrive to our final destination. We want to travel light but sin weighs us down; it becomes excess baggage. The Good News is that through the sacrificial love of Jesus on the Cross, we have the Sacrament of Penance to help us lighten the load. What a gift to experience the Father’s infinite love and divine mercy. It is like ascending to the top of the mountain where we are once again reunited to the Father. We begin this process by examining our conscience to identify the hurts we have caused; situations of greed, pride, envy, anger, lust; offenses towards a spouse, parent, sibling, neighbor, enemy, friend. With a contrite heart, ask the Lord for mercy, forgiveness, healing, peace. It is a great way to repent and return to the Lord.