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Lenten Reflection: Encounter Christ

March 18, 2024

From the Office for Social Ministry

“He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” — Philippians 2:7-8

This passage from St. Paul’s message to the Philippians about the Christ’s Incarnation is very profound especially during Holy Week when we are called to reflect on how Jesus willingly emptied himself for all humanity and how we might be able to follow his example of selfless love in service for others. During this final week of our Lenten journey, as we ponder the pascal mystery of Jesus’s sacrificial love, it can also be helpful to remember the saying: “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.” The Son of the God knew of the pain he would endure and still chose to suffer and die for our salvation. He not only accepted heavy crosses of excruciating agony through the crucifixion; but also embraced his suffering and that of the whole world and transformed his pain and suffering through total giving of self and unconditional love into redemption and hope for all.

The culmination of Lent in Holy Week’s focus on the Eucharistic celebration of the Passover and the Passion of Christ on the Cross helps us focus on how we can empty ourselves and embrace the cross to be transformed into the hope of the resurrection. The Lenten Rice Bowl program helps us keep in mind the countless men, women and children who today carry heavy crosses of their own in various forms of hunger, homelessness, and lack of security. In these brothers and sisters, we encounter Christ, as he walks that long road to Calvary. In these encounters, the Lenten practice of almsgiving allows us to help in the carrying of the cross of others by charity and acts of mercy and service. Through this year’s Lenten CRS Rice Bowl stories of Hope, we have seen several examples of ways our charitable giving has helped our global family transform challenges into opportunities to help themselves and others. First, we saw Christ in Uganda, through Adolf and Florence, who learned new farming methods, so they can provide food for their family and help their neighbors grow better crops. Then we saw Christ in El Salvador, in Sandra and Santos’s family who learned how to raise chickens sustainably and then passed on that training to help their neighbors do the same.  Finally, in the last Rice Bowl Lenten Story of Hope, we encounter Christ in Indonesia, where Evita and her family helped establish a community garden that yields harvests for all and they created an alert system to warn and evacuate people during crises.

We have also seen Christ in each other during Lent—in our prayers, sacrifices and almsgiving. On Holy Thursday, we celebrate the Eucharist as the sacrament of service that ignites our desire to get out of our comfort zone and become Jesus’ hands, “washing the feet of one another,” caring for our neighbors near and far.  Let us continue to imitate Christ by generously giving of ourselves with our sisters and brothers here in Hawaii and around the world, remembering that the passion of Holy Week gives way to the joy Easter—when the fast turns into a feast of Hope. And as we celebrate Easter, it is our responsibility as members of God’s one human family to continue participating in the pascal transformation of suffering into joy. For helpful Rice Bowl Holy Week reflections, such as for the Global Stations of the Cross, please visit the CRS Rice Bowl website www.crsricebowl.org  As we end our Lenten journey and begin the Easter Season, let us remember and pray together the Rice Bowl prayer for Holy Week. “Holy God, Be with us now as we meditate on your Son’s journey to Calvary. Remind us that still, in this present day, many of your children continue that walk to Calvary, carrying heavy, difficult crosses. May we be Simon to those whose burdens are too heavy to be borne alone. May we be Veronica to those who need the touch of love and comfort. And may we, struggling with our own crosses, always remember your promises of justice, mercy and peace. Amen” May all have a very blessed Holy Week leading to a very hopeful Easter season. Mahalo.