The presentation of Jesus in the temple, and purification of Mary, is behind us. Candlemas presented us with opportunity to examine the purity of our own heart as we put together our Lenten commitments. This year Easter appears early on the liturgical calendar—March 31. That means Lent is rapidly approaching, with Ash Wednesday sharing St. Valentine’s day. No chocolates or candies this year! With Lent rapidly approaching, Catholics around the world are choosing what to give up and take on, hoping for some sort of transformation of their life.
Yet it can also be disappointing to, year after year, go through the motions of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving with what seems to be little ‘progress’. Having hoped for a grand transformation of ourselves, we look in the mirror on Easter morning with disappointment and think, “I’m still me”.
How might the world be changed if, this Lent, all Catholics permitted Jesus to go a little deeper into their heart?
In his book, The Imitation of St. Joseph, Fr. Matthew Kauth examines Joseph’s experience of Simeon’s prophesying of Jesus. Joseph knew the faith of his Fathers and the prophesies of the Messiah to come. Fr. Kauth ponders, “Did the words of Simeon cast a dark shadow across his (Joseph’s) mind?” (p. 87). Did Joseph immediately recall the words of the suffering servant in Isaiah? We cannot know but what we do know is that God had entrusted Joseph with His secret, the secret withheld from past generations: the Messiah had come. Of the hidden life of Jesus, the Church teaches us to ponder how God humbled Himself, choosing to be anonymous. However, let’s not miss the opportunity to ponder St. Joseph’s role in this secret too.
Fr. Kauth explains that “This was not your (Joseph’s) Word to give away”. A secret is “a treasure given to us…to be held in trust”. “The Father, Himself kept the secret of His Son for generations” (p.113). In keeping this secret, Joseph is the image of the Father. The Father understands things hidden deep within the heart; so too St. Joseph of the Word. “The spiritual life has something about it of secrecy because it has something about it of intimacy.”
Furthering the thinking of St. Thomas Aquinas, Fr. Kauth explains that, when we hold another’s secret in our heart, we hold their mystery. A friend becomes another self. And because a friend becomes another self, when spoken to each other, the secret still remains a secret as if never spoken at all. “Secrets are shared life” (p. 119), not just intellectually but spiritually too.
Our relationships, whether spousal, parent/child, sibling, or friend, seen through this lens can only change them for the better. What treasures are stored in my heart, and what value have I placed on these? What value should I place on them? Do I value enough our relationship? Or conversely, has this person become my idol or savior, replacing God? What prevents me from sharing my secrets with God?
Just as our Father kept the secret of His Son throughout history, He wants us to share with Him the deepest secrets in our heart. He is the one Person who is eternally trustworthy, from Whom our vulnerability is rewarded with Divine Intimacy. These are the conversations that will transform your Lent.
And if you do not know how to start those conversations, try asking Joseph. Clearly, he knows.
“Covenant with God,” from St. Gertrude the Great:
” O Almighty God ! I sanctify, dedicate,
and consecrate to Thee every beating of my
heart, and every pulsation of my blood ; and
I desire to make this compact with Thee that
every beating shall say to Thee: Holy,
holy, holy, Lord God of Sabbath ; and
I beseech Thee to impute this meaning
to them, so that they may be before Thy
Divine Majesty as the increasing echo of that
heavenly canticle which the Seraphim sing
without ceasing to Thee. Amen.”
“Each sigh, each look, each thought of mine,
Shall be an act of love divine,
And everything that I shall do.
Shall be, dear Lord, for love of You.”
This post was originally published on the Face of Grace Project and is reprinted here with permission.