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Father Muench Says...

Lent is a time to discover who we are

March 6, 2019

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

God has a gift for us: Lent. Lent is an old friend for most of you. Keep in mind, Lent is about transformation, Lent is about conversion. Lent is about making us saints, especially when we use well the time of Lenten prayer and fasting and good works. When we understand, Lent is God’s gift – a program to allow God into our hearts in a special way.

Last week, at the doors of the church, I picked up the recent copy of the Florida Catholic, the Catholic newspaper of the Palm Beach Diocese. The Bishop of this diocese is an old friend of ours, here in the Diocese of Ogdensburg, Bishop Barbarito. He writes a regular column for his diocesan newspaper.

In this week’s issue of the Florida Catholic, Bishop Barbarito’s column begins with an introduction to Lent. In the column, he mentions a new book by Pope Francis. This book, “God is Young,” is written as a conversation with the author, Thomas Leoncini. It sounded good. So, I got a copy for my kindle and have read much of it already. It is not long.

I would like to share with you some of Pope Francis’ ideas in this book. Pope Francis speaks of God as young. He does go on to talk about God as old. It is his hope that God becomes more alive to the young, as well as the old. Pope Francis makes it clear he is talking about people. He says: “Youth does not exist, only young people.” And he adds: “Old age does not exist, old people do.” The Pope makes it clear he is talking to us, people.

God is young. Young people should find a friend in God because God is young. Pope Francis reminds us of a line from the Book of Apocalypse: “The one who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new!’”

Pope Francis tells us why God is young: “God is He who always renews, because He is always new! God is Young! The most distinctive attributes of the young are also His. He is young because He makes all things new and loves innovation. He astonishes and loves astonishment because He dreams and wants us to dream, because He is strong and enthusiastic, because He forms relationships and asks us to do the same. He is social.”

God is young and has so much to share with the young.

God is old. God wants to be one of us old people. Pope Francis explains: “We must be joyful and proud of being old, just as we are normally proud of being old, just as we are normally proud of being young. Old Age is a privilege; it means having experiences, being able to know and recognize our faults and our merits.”

The old should be a gift to the young. The old have dreams to share with the young. The young share hopes and enthusiasm. Together, they are our path to salvation. Pope Francis does have a warning: “For a young person to approach an old person requires tenderness, and it takes tenderness for an elderly individual to approach a young person.”

So, Lent is our time each year to discover who we are and to recognize God’s gift to us – the gift of “who we are.” Lent establishes a close relationship for us with the Holy Spirit so that our hearts will be filled with the freshness, the imagination and the innovation of the Holy Spirit. Each year, during Lent, the Holy Spirit has something new for us. May we be open and receptive. The Spirit approaches us often through prayer and through others, through the young and the old.

Pope Francis reaches out to the young, that they may discover that truly they are prophets. The young are the most important prophets of the world. The mission of young people is to be prophets: To be prophets, “they have to get their feet dirty in the streets” as bearers of hope.

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