Saturday of the Third Week of Lent
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“But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
A few weeks ago I got a text from a friend asking me if I knew of any Catholic groups that “cater to people with piercings and tattoos”. I suppose that since I have tattoos myself my friend figured I would know if a group like that existed. I have never heard of one so I responded saying that I did not know of any such groups but that the groups I belong to are very welcoming and would love to have that person attend regardless of his/her appearance. My friend then responded saying, “No I mean like entire arm sleeve tattoos and huge ear gauges”. Again I assured him that no one was going to reject or exclude that person from the group, but I never got a response back.
Last week when I first saw this YouTube video of Sister Cristina singing on The Voice of Italy I was completely blown away! She obviously has a beautiful voice, but what I found to be exceedingly more beautiful was her joyful spirit and desire to evangelize. She reminds me of a young, female version of Pope Francis – so humble and eager to extend the love of Christ to anyone and everyone.
“If I had met you during the Mass when I was a child, now I would be Pope. I would surely have attended all of the functions.”
Those are the words that the heavily tattooed rapper J-ax spoke to her after her performance, and they immediately took me back to the conversation I had with my friend. Then I began to wonder… what if there is someone out there, a future pope even, who wants to attend “all the functions” but is being left out for some superficial reason?! I’m not okay with that! No one should be okay with that. All the Masses, confessions, holy hours, baptisms, confirmations, ordinations, weddings, funerals… all the young adult groups, parish missions, Lenten fish fry dinners… all those “functions” should be open to all the faithful who are seeking to know the Lord.
“Well you have met me now.”
This is the simple response Sister Cristina gave J-ax. And with those simple words she gave J-ax, whose real name is Alessandro, hope and an invitation. She gave him an invitation to come back home to the Church and the hope that he could now attend all the functions if his heart so desired.
All Alessandro did was turn around when he heard a beautiful voice and instantly he had an encounter with grace – an encounter with the Lord. Instead of seeing a half-dressed girl, which is probably what he expected to see, he saw a woman covered by the Son. He saw a women clothed in strength and dignity (cf. Proverbs 31:25). He saw a bride of Christ, and the joy of the Lord that she radiated stirred something inside of him. Tears began to fall and they were his Act of Contrition.
All Christians are called to become “another Christ” – to serve rather than to be served (cf. Matthew 20:28). Whether you are called to religious life, married life, or single life, you still have this same calling to go out in the world and live the joy of the Gospel. How you live it will look different than how I live it because we all have different gifts and talents. Not everyone has a gift for singing like Sister Cristina, but whatever gift you have it is meant to be shared with others. Maybe you will share it with millions of people or maybe you will only share it with a few – both paths leads to holiness as long as the gifts are shared with love.
St. Therese of Lisieux taught us this “little way” to holiness. Through the lessons of her life we know that holiness does not have to be achieved by some grand gesture. Holiness can be found in very small, ordinary, and humble places. Holiness is lived every moment of every day that you choose to extend the love of Christ to another person, realizing that we are all made in the image and likeness of God regardless of whatever sins we have committed.
“I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” – Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel)
This is what it means to pick up your cross and follow Christ for He always went out of His way to seek the lost, the forgotten, the hurt, and the suffering. He always went out of His way to love those that society had cast aside or thrown away. He ate with tax collectors, spoke to prostitutes, touched lepers, and never had a single care about what anyone was going to think. He was totally selfless and His love was sacrificial way before Good Friday. Out of pure love He humbled Himself so that he could enter the darkest, dirtiest, most sinful places of our hearts because He knew that only sacrificial love could cleanse us of our sins. He knew that only the beauty of mercy and compassion could move us to repentance.
So, my brothers and sisters in Christ, as we continue with our Lenten journey let us remember that “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (cf. Romans 5:8). Therefore, we can all still show love to one another despite the fact that we are all still sinners.
But hopefully we are sinners who are trying to become saints!
This mediation was written by Stephanie Juarez. She is a pro-life advocate in Dallas, TX and serves on the Core team at St. Monica’s Catholic Church. For more of her writings please visit her blog Lover of the Light.
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