By Brother Damien Price
I saw a good friend of mine recently and jokingly said to him: “You’re my Lent!” After I had teased him and he me – I went off into my day. Then I thought: “Yes, my friend and every other person I will meet today is my Lent!”
Pope Francis often encourages us to a “culture of encounter”. He invites us to take on the “smell of the sheep”, to get our hands dirty in bringing about the Kingdom of God in our world today. The key to a good Lent is encounter. Do I REALLY meet people? Does my meeting of them leave them more whole, complete and perhaps healed?
One of my favourite texts comes from the Carmelite Nun Teresa of Ávila. Teresa prayed: “Christ has no hands now but yours; no feet now but yours. Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on the world; yours are the feet with which he walks to do good!” Mother Teresa of Kolkata in her Nobel Prize-winning acceptance speech said, “Do not turn your back on the poor, for if you do, you are turning your back on Jesus Christ!”
So, in every encounter of my day, I have the opportunity to truly be the body of Christ for our world. In every encounter of my day, I can be the arms of Christ wrapping around hurt, the eyes of Christ deeply seeing into the other and whispering “you are beautiful” and the feet of Christ walking to pain, rejection, hurt, confusion, hopelessness and fear.
The above sounds nice but what does it look like in the day to day of my Lenten journey?
- Call by name. I love name badges and whenever I am in a shop or service station or come up to a desk and the person is wearing a name badge – I call them by their name.
- Appreciate. In the small moments of your day, in the encounters of your day – appreciate what people do and are for you. Say, “thank you”, wish well, go out of your way to let to the other know that you appreciate them.
- Don’t walk past. I worked with homeless people for over 20 years. Sure, one person in 50 living on the streets may be out to use and manipulate you but the other 49 walk a daily path of rejection, hurt and pain. Walk over to them. Say your name, introduce yourself and invite them to share their first name with you. Engage in gentle conversation and if you feel able, give them something for a cuppa – it is ultimately not the money that is important – it is simple that you did not walk past.
- Stop and enjoy. The flower, the sunrise, the rainbow, the vista – stop and enjoy and thank our God of total and unconditional love who has gifted same to us. And if it is a busker on the street – stop, listen, smile, enjoy and then if you feel able drop that coin into that ragged hat.
- Quiet moments. Find your quiet moments – on the train, between meetings, in the garden, on your walk – wherever, whenever – and simply go within and hold gently the faces and people of your day in your heart. By so doing, in a beautiful mysterious way, the love energy of your Christ-touched heart will flow out to the other and you truly become Christ’s hands and eyes for our world.
- Faces. Look into faces. Truly see in the same way that Jesus saw the widow of Nain – others ‘saw’ her but Jesus truly sees her. Let your eyes sparkle at the faces of your day – encounter them even without even speaking.
- Smile. “Do not put on a gloomy look like the pagans do – wrapping yourself in sackcloth and ashes!” Let your presence, let your smile, let your gentle encounter touch the people of your day – the big and the small, the important and seemingly unimportant.
- Give. Give from your substance. Give beyond the 15 cents change from the McDonald’s burger – give money, your time, your energy, your passion, your love – beyond the token response and give willingly, give generously, give in a way that truly frees your heart.
- Begin at home. This Lenten Journey into the heart encounter with the Christ in a million disguises begins with yourself and those in your family, your community, your immediate circle of encounter.
- Journey. Bring all of this to Eucharist and allow these encounters to be eucharistic in your everyday – by so doing – you, with Jesus walking beside you will set your face and your heart resolutely towards Jerusalem and by so doing – your Passion Week and your Easter Triduum will truly be the ultimately encounter it was always meant to be.
Yes, my friend and every encounter of my day – are my Lent!
Christian Brother Damien Price is a former teacher in Brisbane schools including St Patrick’s College, Shorncliffe; St Joseph’s College, Gregory Terrace; and St Laurence’s College, South Brisbane. He continues to work with schools across the country.