March 13, 2012

MISSION MATTERS: Spring Break, St. Patrick and Lent

Lenten Cross

We've survived mid-term exams, three weeks of Lent and are now in the midst of Spring Break. Any one of these, or all of these, provide a good time to take stock of how our semester, our preparation for Easter and our life, is going. How are you doing? Many of us may feel some let-down from the resolutions we made at the beginning of each of these phases of our year. We may be tempted to despair that we've forgotten once again, all of our good intentions, and we're not where we hoped we would be at this point in time. This is a good time for us to examine our progress.

St. Patrick is a good person to help us do our self-examination--not because he gives us a chance to drown our sorrows, but because his life holds some important lessons for each of us. We have little knowledge of his actual life, but we do know he was captured in his home country of Wales by pagan raiders from Ireland. After his own conversion and training to be a priest, he felt called by God to return to the land of his captivity to preach the Gospel and to lead his captors to God. He must have thought that God had to be crazy to ask him to return and to forgive a people who had subjected him to so much pain.

Crazy or not, we all know how the story ends: Patrick did go to Ireland, and Ireland now celebrates him as the person who saved them from their pagan ways, symbolized by the snakes which are part of his legend.

The important part of Saint Patrick's story is not the snakes, the tacky green beer or the shamrocks, but the Patrick's willingness to move past his own history when God asked him. When Patrick returned to Ireland, he had to leave behind the fear, the hatred and memories of his early life, before he could move anywhere, let alone forward.

In this part of Lent, in our own lives, we're called, by no less than God, to move beyond our fears, our preconceived ideals, our little assumptions of how our things should be. Rather, God asks us in Lent to set aside the ways we were, the ways we may think and to replace them with the way God sees us, the direction God wants us to take. As Patrick knew, answering God's call may not be easy; we have so many memories, so many deep feelings, often, so many ingrained hurts. But if, like Patrick, we can trust in God and His love for each of us, we can go far beyond that sometimes painful past, and well into the much more promising present, firmly facing our future as we move forward. And if, like Patrick, we can open ourselves to the possibilities God can make happen when we are open to His power in our world, we will really have a future we can seek and see with confidence.

Now, after mid-terms, in mid-Lent and the middle of Spring Break, we can all take this time of examining and re-examining where we are, as an invitation to begin to go beyond the inhibiting limitations we allow (and even invite, maybe?) from our past. Now, after mid-terms, in mid-Lent and the middle of Spring Break, we can pray for the courage to trust God's love for each of us so that we may have the freedom to see beyond the past.

With thanks to St. Patrick for his example, we can have no fear...and a wonderful Lent.

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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