I was truly humbled yesterday as a small crowd gathered in the library of the Immaculate Conception Parish Center in Elkton, Maryland where I was giving a Lenten workshop titled “DARE to Walk with Jesus.” The room was packed, standing room only…with fellow parishioners, familiar faces of friends I hadn’t seen in a while and new friends I hadn’t met yet. We had a bit of technical difficulty at first which got us off to a late start (someone made the comment afterward that the “enemy” was truly trying to fight me) but I was moved as I spoke to those gathered, many who shed a few tears and told me I was brave to share my story of how I was led into recovery, challenged as a Christian, called as an author and speaker, and invited to share the ways the Church helps us walk with Jesus.
Before I even got in my car to venture to my destination, I was having breakfast with my husband who had made plans to attend my talk. (He’s always my number one fan, bless his heart, as he always hears my first drafts of my speeches and helps me to “edit” them.) Luckily I had run through my presentation the night before with him, because as it turns out I suggested he not attend the day of. Why? Because he had something more important to do. Someone very close to him needed him to visit when no one else could. He was torn, of course, because he really wanted to support me as well. But summoning up the Jesus within, I encouraged him to go pay the visit…and to be Jesus to that person in need. And I realized in that moment, and especially looking back, that while I knew God was with me and those gathered in the room talking about walking with Jesus, He was also tugging at my heart at the breakfast table too.
My talk (being the writer that I am) focused on the acronym, D.A.R.E. (Decision, Action, Reconciliation, Exploration). First, we need to Decide to walk with Jesus. In Step 3 of the 12-Step Program, we “made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.” It’s the key called willingness that opens the door to the rest of the steps – and makes the journey possible. I believe we need to renew this decision each and every day. Then we need to take Action – and the Church gives us so many opportunities and tools. Prayer, meditation, attending Mass, the Stations of the Cross, the Easter Triduum/Passion services (Holy Thursday through Easter Sunday) doing volunteer work and corporal works of mercy (feeding the hungry, helping the poor and homeless – and yes, visiting those “imprisoned” whether it be physically or emotionally) and so much more. We also need to cast our resentments and fears aside so they don’t block our way. We can do this through Reconciliation…repentance and forgiveness – both of others and of ourselves. And then we need to set a course of Exploration to continue the journey both through Lent and Easter and even beyond – to allow the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sent to work within us to continue to do His work here on earth.
Walking with Jesus can be collective – and certainly very individual or personal too. At the end of my presentation we all took a rock and wrote one word on it to remind us of something we need to focus on with just two weeks of Lent to go. For me the word that comes to mind is Present. I need to be present here and now, not regretting the past nor worrying so much about the future, not being in such a hurry all the time. And I need to be present to others to really be open to walking with Jesus. It was only because I was present at the breakfast table with my husband that I could feel God work through me. It turns out that this was the common thread running through all of the readings at Mass this Sunday. In Isaiah (43:16-21) it said, “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!” Then in the second reading (of St. Paul to the Philipians) it said, “Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.” And finally in the Gospel, Jesus is talking to the woman who committed adultery: “Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” We only have today. What step can I dare to take today to walk with Jesus?