"Has my Lent been enough this year?"
That's the question I found myself pondering this morning as I prayed my way through today's Gospel from John's account of Jesus' passion and death on the cross.
Have I prayed enough?
Have I fasted sufficiently?
Have I given alms with generosity and caring?
I decided for myself that there is and never will be "enough". How can a human, and a weak and overwhelmed one at that, ever offer penance sufficient to the grace offered by our Savior's sacrifice? Thank God for mercy and unconditional salvation.
In so many ways, this has been a Lent unlike any other for our family. In mid-January, my beautiful mother began to suffer extreme health consequences related to her battle with Parkinson's disease. Contending with a speaking schedule that had me crisscrossing the country, I tried from afar to support my siblings as each of them took their turn at caring for my parents. At every turn, I felt wholly insufficient.
Without going into any details that would compromise Mom's privacy, I'll just say that the last ninety+ days have involved so much pain and suffering for her as we have tried to find a safe and comfortable care situation. The pages of my Lenten journal read more like a medical record in some parts.
Admitted to ___
Refuses to ____
Discharged from ____
Taken by ambulance to ____
Seeking admission at ___
In airports and hotels and on buses and in cars and at home and at church and in the shower, I've prayed scores of Rosaries to Our Lady for peace for Mom and Daddy. Our family's situation has brought me into greater solidarity not only with the elderly who face this journey and their caregivers but really with all of those in need. I see them everywhere: those who camp on the street half a mile from my home in LA. Those who labor at multiple low paying jobs to put food on their tables. Those who have been born with or developed disabilities, for whom basic daily tasks are a trial. Those who are marginalized simply because of who they are and how they look.
So much suffering. How can I do more, Lord?
This Lent has taught me that I can never do "enough". I cannot control our situation here in Mississippi, where I'm temporarily living to care for Mom and Daddy. I cannot ease the pain of those I meet or encounter each day. I cannot give enough to feed or shelter the many who need help. I cannot "fix" institutions or laws or leaders.
I can only try to love. And even that I do insufficiently most days.
Thank God it doesn't matter if I am or do "enough". Paul's letter to the Hebrews (today's second reading) assures me of this:
Brothers and sisters:
Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus, the Son of God,
let us hold fast to our confession.
For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who has similarly been tested in every way,
yet without sin.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace
to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
Today, on Good Friday, we pause to give thanks for a Savior who gave his life for each of us, even those who will never be "enough".
Thank you, Jesus. I am yours.