Third Sunday of Lent
by Fr. Ivan Olmo
“Repent, says the Lord; the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Retreats are wonderful opportunities 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 look at where we have been, determine the wrong turns we have taken and in prayer, ask the Lord for strength, healing and guidance. A good book to take on retreat 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 we go through in turning away from the things that cause us to sin and turn towards the Lord and his commandment of love and forgiveness. Over time, John XXIII developed a deeply disciplined prayer life grounded on Christian virtues. He regularly celebrated the Sacrament of Penance because he said even the slightest sin causes a ripple effect to the entire Body of Christ. Some saints have described the process to holiness as a journey up a mountain where the bottom is the starting point – the beginning of life and the top is our ending – our goal, unity with God. This requires us to go through a purification process. We become more aware of our sinfulness and through perseverance and prayer we separate ourselves from it 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 plan for the trip by determining how to arrive to our final destination and determine what is needed for the journey. We want to travel light but sin weighs us down. It becomes excess baggage. The Good News is we have the Sacrament of Penance to help us lighten the load. What a gift it is to experience the Father’s love and mercy. It is like the journey to the top of the mountain. We are once again united to the Father through the sacrificial love of Jesus on the Cross. We begin this process by examining our conscience to identify any hurts we might have caused or situations of greed, pride or envy we experienced or even moments we might have offended a spouse, parent, sibling, neighbor, enemy or friend. With a contrite heart, ask the Lord for mercy, forgiveness, healing, peace. It’s a great way to repent and retreat to the Lord.