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Prayer, Penance, and Loving Service! Weekly Message 2-24-2015
Dear Fellow Digital Missionary, pax Christi:
I really loved writing and filming The Widow’s Might. It’s amazing to me that Jesus made such a dramatic point about the widow’s tiny gesture of giving two little coins to the Temple treasury. Nobody would have noticed her. Nobody would have been impressed by her almost worthless (monetarily) donation. But Jesus did notice her. And Jesus valued her gift more than all the others. And it was so important to him that he made sure his disciples knew all about it. It’s one of my favorite encounters in the Gospels, and it was a joy to dig into it in this year’s Lenten Retreat Guide.
I am convinced that everyone who takes the time to make use of our digital resources gives joy to Christ’s heart the same way the widow did. Giving God the gift of our time and attention may seem small. We may feel that we aren’t really giving him much, and we may even feel discouraged that we can’t give him more.
I am not so sure that God sees it that way. Certainly he always invites us to grow in generosity – to give him more trust, more time, more love, more energy, more alms… And yet, to think that he doesn’t value whatever we manage to give him, however small it may seem, would be a mistake. God is not Scrooge, ungratefully scraping every last cent from the threadbare pockets of his clients. God is our Father and our Savior. Our smallest gestures of gratitude and love delight him.
Let’s keep that in mind this Lent. Lent isn’t about earning God’s love by putting in more hours of spiritual activities. It’s about re-ordering our lives once again, so that God’s grace has space to stimulate new spiritual growth. The three traditional Lenten practices that I discuss briefly in The Widow’s Might all have to do with that. They are like three levels of a cascading fountain, and during Lent, we are invited to clean and refresh each level:
- Prayer has to do with the health of our love for God, and it is the top of the fountain, where all the water flows from.
- Penance has to do with the health of love for ourselves, and the discipline and self-sacrifice that this required in our fallen world; it is the second level of the fountain that gets filled up by the overflow from the top.
- Loving service has to do with the health of our love for those around us, especially the ones in most need – the third and usually the biggest level of the fountain, which fills up from the overflow of the first two levels.
I truly hope you enjoy RC Spirituality’s many Lenten resources (three Retreat Guides, a Study Circle Guide, our many Ask a Priest articles…). And I truly hope you enjoy knowing that your small offerings to God bring him great delight.
Count on my daily prayers for you.
In Him, Fr. John Bartunek, LC, ThD