The Gospel reading for today (Mk 1:40-45), the last Sunday before Lent begins, provides a direct link to what Pope Francis discusses in his Message for Lent 2015.
While the title of the Message is “Make Your Hearts Firm,” Francis writes from his greatest concern over a “globalization of indifference. … a problem which we, as Christians, need to confront.” The whole salvation message, that Jesus came, was incarnate, lived, breathed, taught, and healed, was crucified, died, was buried, and rose from the dead, leads us to believe that God is not indifferent to us and to our world.
In today’s Gospel reading, a man with leprosy essentially says to Jesus, “if you care, you can make a difference in my life.” Jesus was not indifferent; he was moved with pity and reached out his hand – a movement of caring, compassion, personal risk, and desire to make a difference in the life of another person. “Christians are those who let God clothe them with goodness and mercy, with Christ, so as to become, like Christ, servants of God and others.” (n. 1)
The world is big, her problems are many, and with so much information instantly available to us, it can be overwhelming. “What difference can I make?” I ask myself. As I write this, it is snowing yet again. Each individual snowflake might seem insignificant, but the combined effect of the snowflakes makes mountains of snow – stops traffic, bends trees, and sags roofs – and who is to say that it isn’t just one more snowflake that would cause the tree or roof to break? While the effects of snow might be destructive (if not merely inconvenient!) it provides a good example of the impact of the efforts of each of us. We make a difference every time we choose to act with intentionality – with compassion.
The call to Consecrated Persons this year is to live the present with passion. Passion is as far from indifferent as one can get! In this Lenten Message, Pope Francis says, “how greatly I desire that all those places where the Church is present, especially our parishes and our communities, may become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference!” (n. 2)
How do I witness the indifference of society? Do I feel that my efforts are of no use and fall into the safety of indifference? “As individuals too, we are tempted by indifference. Flooded with new reports and troubling images of human suffering, we often feel our complete inability to help. What can we do to avoid being caught up in this spiral of distress and powerlessness?” Pope Francis asks (n. 3). With this question, he offers us three answers:
- First is the call to prayer. To pray is not to do nothing! To truly pray for the needs of my brothers and sisters means that I have allowed their need to enter into my heart, that I recognize an injustice, that I acknowledge our interconnectedness – our communio.
- Second is the call to action. “We can help by acts of charity,” the Pope tells us (n. 3). We cannot solve every problem on our own, but we can help and contribute to organizations that work for the good of our sisters and brothers both near and far. During Lent, what if I decide what to give out instead of what to give up?
- Third is the call to conversion. The recognition that members of my family, my human family, are in need, “reminds me of the uncertainty of my own life and my dependence on God and my brothers and sisters.” (n. 3) This balance of needing both God and others is to keep my feet on the ground – I am not the savior of the world, nor am I the savior of myself!
I am limited and needy and therefore can find that vulnerable place of communion with those whose need might be a little more obvious – the person with “leprosy” who crosses my path and says to me, “if you care, you can make a difference in my life!” The choice, to not be indifferent, to make a difference is enough to change the world one person, one encounter, at a time. What will you give out this Lent?
Sr. Kelly Connors teaches Canon Law for Saint Joseph’s College Online.