There are so many options for Lenten reflections out there. Many bishops and priests will write a reflection series, most parishes will offer some kind of booklet like the Little Black books or a Magnificat Lenten Companion prayer book. If you are starting to think, oh this is just another one of those books/series, keep reading! The Hope of Lent by Diane M. Houdek is a brand new series of reflections….hold it right there. It may say that these are “reflections” in the title, but I would respectfully beg to differ.
What is so delightfully refreshing about Pope Francis is that in one breath he can cause a person to stop, reflect and be moved to act. Houdek has very thoughtfully chosen key moments in Pope Francis’ daily homilies and addresses which invite the reader to not simply consider the daily readings, but to be inspired into practical action.
Lent isn’t only a time for sitting back and internal soul searching, though this can be extremely fruitful. Pope Francis is fearless in his interpretation and explanation of Gospel truths.
How often we find people – ourselves included – so often in the Church who proclaim: “I am a real Catholic!” They should be asked, “What do you do?”
The Lord’s mercy is in doing. Being Christian means acting: doing the will of God. And on the last day – because we will all have one – what will the Lord ask us? Will he ask us: “What have you said about me?” No! He will ask about the things we have done.
– Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent
Houdek rightfully explores the exhortations of Pope Francis by offering a brief follow-up meditation which typically includes an idea for how to put our pope’s words into action. The daily entry finishes with a few lines of prayer from Pope Francis.
Something I really appreciated about The Hope of Lent is how Houdek frames the purpose for it. She says:
The greatest hope of Lent is the discovery that it’s not only about penance, deprivation, spiritual struggles, and rooting out sin in our lives. Those are often the things we do during Lent. But the hope of Lent lies in what God does (vii).
So here we have a simple book that has found a way to hold two key truths in balance with one another. In one hand, it isn’t enough to talk the talk, we must walk the walk. However, while we are doing all that walking, we must not get caught up in our own action. Rather, the more we are called to action necessarily means we are called to greater contemplation.
We live in a rush, we are on the run, without noticing what the path is like; and we let ourselves be carried along by the needs, by the necessities of the days, but without thinking…Today, at the moment in which we stop to think about these things and to make decisions, to choose something, we know the Lord is with us, is beside us, to help us. He never lets us go alone.
– Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Even though Lent has just begun, The Hope of Lent is more than worth going back and reading from the beginning. And then reading again in June or July. And possibly in October or November as well. Pope Francis’ meditations are full of spiritual insight and practical wisdom that can inspire us to become hope-filled, joy-filled Christians.