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.
Fifth Sunday Lenten Reflection By Sr. Mary Stanco, HM, Humility of Mary Volunteer Service
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” (Jn 11)
Jesus asks “Are there not twelve hours in a day? And we realize that there is only so much time to walk in the light before we start to walk in the dark unknown….” (Jn 11).
Jesus is urgently on the road as he grieves the loss of his friend Lazarus. Martha is upset with Jesus for not having been there. Death is often inconvenient and disruptive. Like Jesus we are perturbed or unsettled by death. When in a service year there are many deaths that will occur where we become more vulnerable to what we are experiencing around us. We may be quietly dealing with the death of a friend or relative. Unable to get back home to be with someone who is dying. It can change the course of the service year if not prematurely end it.
Death challenges us to let go of what was and reconfigure how to be in a new reality. Decaying matter stinks. Decay is the recomposition of matter into an entirely new form such as compost becoming hummus used in soil. Death stinks and in time it can sweeten into hummus providing nutrients for new life. What do we need during our Lenten journey to allow ourselves to be perturbed enough to stink a little, to let go of, to bring us to new life?
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
“But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you” (Jn 11).
As Martha met Jesus, we pray to you, we ask for what we need to bring Lazarus out of the tomb and loosen what binds us. When we are perturbed by what is happening around us, especially death and poverty, we can find hope within the community we live and serve with. Let our presence be enough when there are no words or deeds to bring comfort to others. Amen.
Focus on Community
Death can perturb us even if we might not know the person who died. The community becomes a source of comfort. We find that we may be quieter, angrier, solemn, confused, numb, ambivalent, shocked, frightened, unable to cry, nervously trying to find words, awkward, and inadvertently find humor through the tears. If open to it, we may witness reconciliation happening as that which seems to bind us loosens and frees us. In coping with death, it can give us perspective on what is important in life and reveals what it means to bring more abundant life to others.
To let ourselves be perturbed in order to transform our hearts and move us with compassion to walk with another. What is it within ourselves that we need to unbind ourselves from that we can stay in relationship with the community we live and serve with? Forgiveness, love, patience, self-care are ways to unbind ourselves. How can we be fully present to another suffering? Give them the space to be fully in their grief and accept them in those tender moments when they need someone to listen.
Sr. Mary Stanco, HM is a Sister of the Humility of Mary and former Director of HM Volunteer Service (2012-2018) and Site Director for Notre Dame Mission Volunteers (2009-2012). Volunteered with Ignatian Volunteer Corps in Cleveland. Currently the Director of Donor Care for The Leadership Collaborative ,a leadership program for religious women and associates.
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.