When Jesus extends His hand to you, He expects nothing but that you respond with love.

Respond with love to all that God brings us

By 
  • March 13, 2012

My mother has always said that many Catholics “go looking” for specific penances to perform during Lent although God Himself will bring opportunities for sanctification right to our doorstep.

She has often suggested that rather than pre-determining specific resolutions, prayers, sacrifices or donations, why not approach the grace-filled season of Lent with openness and a commitment to lovingly respond to that which God brings? Her basic premise is this: while someone is spending time searching how to best serve God, they might be overlooking an opportunity to serve Him that lies right in front of them.

An inflexible resolution to take up a specific penance during Lent (or at any time) could in fact be causing our hearts to close to those around us who have specific needs.

“Respond to what God brings with love,” she says.

That statement often resounds with me, but especially so this year.

Not long ago, my husband was in Saskatchewan on a business trip. There are times when I really look forward to time alone with my teenage kids, so I was happily anticipating doing a range of things with them. Then the telephone rang. It was my father-in-law, who had a request.

“I was thinking I would like to come over and spend a couple of days with the family,” he said.

A part of me — the part that was looking forward to some alone time with my children — wanted to delay his visit. But then, by the grace of God, my mother’s words rang in my heart.

“Respond to what God brings with love.”

So I ignored my first inclination and replied: “We’d love to have you over! John is out of town, but he’ll be back soon. I am sure Michael would love his grandfather coming to a hockey game. Monica always enjoys a visit with her granddad. Come on down. Don’t forget the cookies you always bring!”

I had no idea at the time that it would be our last visit with my beloved father-in-law and the grandfather to my kids. Dan died suddenly, unexpectedly, just a few weeks later.

Part of our Lenten journey as a family this year is working through grief over our loss. Just last summer we saw him playing baseball as part of the Bobcay

geon oldtimers’ baseball league at the Rogers Centre. It seems like yesterday he was taking me to the symphony and theatre. It’s hard to believe he’s gone.

Daily, I thank God for my mother’s advice to “respond to what God brings with love.” Daily I have been thanking God for that last visit with my father-in-law. I have been thinking a lot this Lent about my last visit with him.

God brings us hundreds of situations and dozens of people each day as sacred opportunities to help us in our journey of sanctification. It strikes me that God is using many people in my life to help me grow in holiness — the cashier at the grocery store who seems to be the slowest girl in town, the aggressive drivers who irritate me, the telemarketers who drive me crazy, the relatives that have disliked me because of my religiosity, the teenagers who can be a little too enthusiastic for middle-aged me, the unexpected bills, the minor accidents, the demanding neighbour and thoughtless gestures of others.

In each of these instances, Jesus is extending His hand and expecting nothing else from me but to respond with love. It’s an important lesson for all of us at Lent — focus on purifying or softening our hearts when confronted with one of life’s difficult situations.

I have been blessed this Lenten season in seeing how Christ’s love has come to me through so many different people, including my late father-in-law. As a mother, I am searching for ways to help my children see this too. How can we teach our children to see and feel their blessings in a way that will stir a genuine desire to share that love with others?

Finding an answer to that question is something I will keep in my prayers during Lent.

(Writer, speaker and consultant, Pilarski’s book, Motherhood Matters: Inspirational Stories, Letters, Quotes & Prayers for Catholic Moms, is available at catholicregister.org or by calling 416-934-3410.)

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