With the beginning of a New Year things start off slowly and then pick up rather quickly. We are almost thirty days into the New Year and it is time to talk about our next season of ARISE that takes place during the six weeks of Lent. The title of the series is “New Heart, New Spirit” focusing on the importance of God’s forgiveness and mercy. It ties in well with Pope Francis’ theme last year, the “Year of Mercy.” When we come to know Christ, change our hearts and walk in his footsteps we encounter the need to receive God’s forgiveness and then offer this same forgiveness to others in our lives, those who have hurt us, those who have disappointed us, those who have tested us and those whom we have tested and those who are struggling on their own personal path to holiness and wholeness.
Throughout our journey as Christians, we know that we will be tested in order to be true to our faith, to give appropriate witness to our faith and to live our faith. And the longer we live; we have more opportunities to make mistakes, to sin, to remember moments that influenced our lives, some of the secrets of our hearts. As Pope Francis reiterated, “God never tires of forgiving us: we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy.”Are we willing to seek God’s forgiveness for our present or past transgressions, or do we think we can just put them in the closet and forget about them? Somehow our past, like Jacob Marley’s boxes and chains, don’t go away, they reappear at unexpected moments in our lives.
In this fourth season of ARISE participants will reflect together on the transforming power of forgiveness, the ability to start again, becoming children of the light, unbinding and being unbound and becoming new creations. Matthew Kelley suggests that we spend our lives trying to become the best version of ourselves. Not perfect persons, because none of us can be perfect. Pope Francis suggests that “we need to be the best flawed person that we can be.”
This ARISE season is apropos for all of us as it coincides with Lent, the season of the church, in which we prepare for the renewal of our baptismal promises at Easter through the three common practices of fasting, almsgiving and prayer. These three practices help open our minds and hearts to God’s ever present healing love, a love that we all need. The flip side of healing love is the power of God’s forgiveness. How many times when Jesus healed someone he forgave them? We don’t have to be diagnosed with a major illness or have committed the worst of sins to benefit from God’s forgiveness and love. Knowing we are forgiven and loved may help us deal with others in our lives.
If you haven’t participated before in a small faith sharing group it is still possible to sign up and participate in a small faith sharing group this season. Please stay tuned for the opportunity to sign up for ARISE over the next two weekends. If you would be willing to host a group, please contact Patti Rottjakob at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the parish office at (408) 997-4800.
Blessings, Father Larry