“Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied.”

Luke 6:21a

I have had the privilege this year of assisting with an RCIA class at the Rapid City Newman Center.  We begin the evening with a simple supper and those of us cooking learned early on that these students are very blessed!  They are hungry and there are NO leftovers. No matter what we put in front of them, it is enthusiastically and gratefully received.  I have been blessed to see their enthusiasm about a home-cooked meal, but even more so by their gratitude.  They are very sincere in their words of thanks, but they also express this gratitude in action.  Never once have I had to clean up the supper.  When I get back to the kitchen after class, the dishes are loaded in the dishwasher, the counters are wiped, things are put away and the cooking dishes washed up.  All of this without me (or anyone else) ever asking.  Their maturity and generosity is a joy to see.

They don’t just come on Tuesday evenings with a physical hunger, though.  They are also spiritually hungry and this too, is a great blessing to behold.  I have been involved as an RCIA catechist for many years in a couple of different parishes, but this class is different than any I have ever taught.  Engineers, scientists and mathematicians have a unique way of seeing the world and the whole team has been humbled by the depth of their questions.  One week Fr. Mark exclaimed, “Hey, I am just a simple guy who loves Jesus! I sometimes feel inadequate in the face of your questions.”  I laughed and shook my head in agreement.  To field their questions has been humbling.  Hardly a week goes by that I do not have an interesting question to research as I strive to keep up with them!

These young adults have truly been a sign of hope and joy for me.  As we enter both into Lent and into these last weeks of winter, there can be a weariness in our spirits.  We long for the signs of new life that come with the Spring and we long for the celebration of the Resurrection at Easter.  Each Tuesday evening, I am blessed to go and experience the New Springtime in the Church.  And, as always is the case, I said yes to this commitment thinking I was serving God and His Church, and in doing so, I am actually the one being served.

I leave you with this beautiful quote from Cardinal Ratzinger’s book Introduction to Christianity which I found in one of my many searches for answers to these young people’s probing questions.  It is fitting for the beginning of Lent and the age-old practice of meditating on our deaths as we receive ashes and begin our Lenten journey.  It has been a blessing to me as I hope it is to you.

Jesus entered Sheol, that is he died. . . It is at this point that we come face-to-face with the problem of what death really is. . . .what appears as the innermost heart of his Passion is not any physical pain but radical loneliness, complete abandonment. . . (H)ere is simply the abyss of loneliness of man in general, of man who is alone in his innermost being.  This loneliness . . is in fundamental contradiction with the nature of man, who cannot exist alone.  That is why loneliness is the region of fear. . . The fear peculiar to man cannot be overcome by reason, but only by the presence of someone who loves him . . .(O)ne thing is certain:  there exists a night into whose solitude no voice reaches; there is a door through which we can only walk alone– the door of death. . . .  all the fear in the world is fear of this loneliness.  .  . Death is absolute loneliness.  But the loneliness into which love can no longer advance is — hell. . . . (But) Christ strode through the gate of our final loneliness, that in his Passion he went down into the abyss of our abandonment.  Where no voice can reach us any longer, there is he.  Hell is thereby overcome, or, to be more accurate, death which was previously hell, is hell no longer. . . . (T)here is life in the midst of death, because love dwells in it.  Now only deliberate self-enclosure is hell . . . but death is no longer the path into icy solitude; the gates of Sheol have been opened.”  (pp.298-301)

Unless of course, we shut them again.  This, ultimately, is the work of Lent.



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