“Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start, despite their mental and social conditioning. We are able to take an honest look at ourselves, to acknowledge our deep dissatisfaction, and to embark on new paths to authentic freedom. No system can completely suppress our openness to what is good, true and beautiful, or our God-given ability to respond to his grace at work deep in our hearts. I appeal to everyone throughout the world not to forget this dignity which is ours. No one has the right to take it from us. ” Laudato Si’ #205
As this year’s Lenten Season begins, we are all witnessing in our world another example of that “worst” of which humans are capable. As we see the sovereign state of Ukraine invaded and overrun by a powerful neighbor, it conjures up images in the not-to-distant past, when Europe was brought to the brink of destruction by persons possessed by extreme evil. We pray that today’s troubles may soon be resolved and millions of innocent people will again live in peace and harmony.
Unfortunately, the situation in Ukraine, is not unique, even today. All over our world we can find examples of systemic persecution, exploitation and abuse, on the levels of nations, peoples and even religions. Lent can be a time for us to open our eyes wider, to cultivate a real empathy with those who suffer, even far away from our own reality, and to call upon the Lord for the end of these evils.
This week’s citation brings the question even closer to our own lives. It calls us “to “choose what is good…make a new start… take an honest look at ourselves, to acknowledge our deep dissatisfaction, and to embark on new paths to authentic freedom.” This is Lent. It is not an exercise in self-condemnation, rather by confronting this side of our nature, we can finally cultivate “our openness to what is good, true and beautiful, or our God-given ability to respond to his grace at work deep in our hearts. If this is what Lent 2022 leads us to, then we will truly be able to rejoice at Easter.