When we face difficult circumstances, what keeps our focus on Christ? Contemplative Outreach, a non-profit organization that teaches contemplative prayer, suggests we practice the Welcoming Prayer during painful times. They suggest taking a deep breath before acknowledging whatever feelings the situation causes you to experience. Repeat the word “welcome” to invite God to be present with you. Then offer this prayer that Mary Mrozowski, a student of Thomas Keating, shares:
I let go of my desire for security and survival.
I let go of my desire for esteem and affection.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire to change the situation.
These words help us center on Christ. As Jesus travels through a Samaritan village, the villagers reject him. Their outright dismissal angers the disciples, who want to punish those refusing hospitality. But Jesus accepts the rejection, continuing on his way to Jerusalem, where he will consciously accept the greater rejection and suffering that await.
Today is Ash Wednesday, when the season of Lent begins. The church sets aside these 40 days leading to Easter to walk alongside Jesus as he approaches his passion, death, and resurrection. We may be tempted to skip over Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane, or on the cross, and move quickly into the joy of Easter. However, we need both the pain and the promise in this story to receive the full gift that God offers us through it.
We too face the possibility of turning Christ away. Lent is an opportunity to welcome Jesus with open hearts. Are you up for the journey?
What steps do you need to take this Lent to welcome Jesus and his suffering?
Christ, though we are sinful, you love us. Thank you for enduring the cross. Give us the courage to open our hearts and stay centered on you. Amen.