Lenten Reflection – Being Present

In this annual series, current and former volunteers reflect on the Lenten Gospels and the Four Pillars of Faith-Based Service: Social Justice, Simplicity, Community and Spirituality. Presented by Catholic Apostolate Center and Catholic Volunteer Network.

Palm Sunday Lenten Reflection By Gabe Hurrish, Maryknoll Lay Missioners

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:11-54)

As I read the Passion of Christ and as I meditate on the five Sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary, I often think about what Jesus’ mother was going through? Poor Mary was probably incredibly distraught with the treatment her son was getting. I imagine her begging friends, family and even officials to try to intercede for her son and stop the madness.

Yet, Jesus remains calm throughout and continues His journey. Would Mother and Son be able to see each other? What words could have passed between them before or during the Passion? How would my mother feel knowing I was going to be tortured, humiliated and then put to death? As it is, she worries enough because many places I am sent to are not so safe and comfortable.

Presently, I live in South Sudan. I haven’t been treated as badly in this country as Jesus was treated in his country, but I have friends who have. These people suffer the Passion of Jesus every day. They carry their crosses. They are beaten and abused and cheated and lied to and humiliated and treated in all sorts of terrible ways. Women have lost their sons and daughters to torture, rape and ethnic cleansing. Men have been killed simply for refusing to join the army. Children have been abducted, raped and killed. YET, somehow these South Sudanese find hope in all this darkness. They are traumatized in ways I cannot imagine. It affects them. It hurts them. YET they continue to pray to God. They trust all will be well. And just as Mary stayed with her son to the end, South Sudanese do not deny their suffering even if it costs them dearly. They have a deeper faith than any I have witnessed before.

Sometimes we foreigners think we are doing all the good for those in poor countries. I find that the people are in fact, doing me a world of good. First they shame my weak faith. Then they strengthen my commitment. They teach me humility and courage and trust in God. As I hold the hand of an eighty year old woman who has just lost her entire family to tragedy, I find that it is her spirit that is healing me. A mystery of the Holy Spirit. I pray my mother doesn’t worry too much. After all, I am only trying to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.


God of mercy and compassion….help me forgive
God of justice and right….help me find truth
God of strength and power….help me to bear my cross
God of pain and sorrow….help me endure
God of joy and happiness….help me live
Help me to live like your wonderful poor souls all around me.

Service Suggestion

I come from a culture that judges success based on how much we DO and how much we HAVE. I now live in cultures where PRESENCE is valued more than SUCCESS. I am surprised at how much depression there is in wealthy countries. I don’t find that problem in poor countries. Despair is a luxury of the rich. Many are those who ask me what to do about depression/sadness/or feelings of emptiness. I usually tell them to go out and be present to someone who is hurting. You don’t have to do anything. Just be there. Hold their hand. Listen to them. Look in their eyes. Wait with them. I discover a mystery unfolding as this type of attendance does miracles. The Spirit of God is present and strong. Most people don’t thank me for building this or for writing that or for doing something else. They thank me for “being with them”. Mary was with her Son during his time of suffering. I try to do the same. The rest is God’s will.


Gabe Hurrish was born and raised in Stevens Point, WI. in a simple Catholic family of 5 children. He has a Masters from Boston University in International Public Health. He has served in numerous countries for over 27 years working with different faith based and NGO organizations. He is currently serving as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner for Solidarity with South Sudan, a Catholic initiative of religious from all over the world training South Sudanese in areas of Health, Education, Agriculture and Pastoral.

Looking for more reflections like this one? We invite you to download our Lenten Reflection Guide in its entirety, available by clicking here. You can also find an extensive library of Lenten resources by visiting the Catholic Apostolate Center website – click here.

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