Entering the Lenten Season a reflection of Fr. Gilles Mongeau, SJ

Les Miserables drawing of a girl mopping the floorMarch 8, 2019 — There is a very moving scene at the beginning of the novel (and the musical) Les Misérables where Jean Valjean — newly released from prison, having enjoyed the hospitality of a poor country bishop and having repaid that hospitality by robbing the poor man of all the “precious silver” for the celebration of mass — is caught by the gendarmes and brought back to the church. The bishop, knowing full well the guilt of Valjean, denies that the silver was stolen and in the presence of the officers hands Valjean two more silver candlesticks. This unconditional generosity transforms Valjean, who becomes an honest and successful businessman, and eventually the mayor of his town, though under a pseudonym, to protect himself from his past.

Many years later, Javert, a police inspector obsessed with Valjean’s capture, tracks him down to the little town where he has established himself. He mistakes another townsman for Valjean and has him arrested. Valjean is faced with a dilemma: shall he allow an innocent man to be jailed (and thus ensure his own freedom) or shall he reveal his true identity, risking the loss of all the good he has achieved over many years? It seems that the freedom God has granted him is threatened by the very goodness and honesty he has offered to God.

He chooses to save the life of the innocent and acknowledge his true identity. In that moment, he remembers who he really is, not just a good and honest man, but a redeemed criminal. When he claims his full identity as a beloved and healed sinner, his true and lasting liberation happens.

The Lenten readings and liturgies often draw our attention to this necessary act of memory:

  • The traditional Ash Wednesday phrase “Remember you are dust,” which calls us to remember we are creatures and not God
  • Moses’ instruction for the offering of the harvest (“A wandering Aramean was my father…”)
  • the Transfiguration, where Jesus speaks with Moses and Elijah about the meaning of the history of Israel
  • God’s naming of himself in the desert (“I am the God of your ancestors”)
  • Jesus’ temptation in the desert, where he overcomes the enemy by remembering who he is before the Father

In these and in many other places, we are encouraged to remember God’s goodness to us, and in remembering this, to “come back to ourselves” like the Prodigal (gospel of the 4th Sunday of Lent). He remembers who he is, and remembering, finds the courage and the freedom to take the steps that lead him home.

There are many forces at work in our lives that would dictate to us who we are: economic forces, cultural and social influences, political ideologies, and so on. All of these forces keep us living on the surface of our lives, away from who we really are before God. This Lent, take the time to remember and savour who you really are in God’s eyes by remembering God’s goodness to you. And then choose Lenten practices that will help you grow in your ability to express more faithfully this truer and deeper identity in everything you do.

- reprinted with permission of Novalis Publishing





Recent News

Father Jack Hall died peacefully on March 14, 2019 at the Jesuit Infirmary in Pickering, Ontario. He was in his 73rd year and was in religious life for 45 years. His care for the Society and the Church was genuine; his storytelling brought raucous laughter on his part.

March 15, 2019 — Film maker Kevin Moynihan, with the financial help the Jesuits and a number of other religious orders, has produced a documentary on the residential schools and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

March 15, 2019 — Dr. Nadia Delicata has just been appointed Episcopal Delegate for the Evangelisation of the Archdiocese of Malta by Mgr Charles J. Scicluna. This is the highest position ever held by a woman in the archdiocese.

March 14, 2019 — The Province of Canada has just created a Service for Common Discernment to assist Jesuit missions and apostolates, but also other organizations that would like to use it in their community discernment efforts.

March 14, 2019 —The famous Jesuit theologian Christoph Theobald will be teaching in Montreal next week. From March 22 to 24, he will give a lecture at the Dominican Pastoral Institute, a teaching inspired by his book Urgences pastorales (Pastoral Emergencies).

March 8, 2019 — This collective work is the initiative of some twenty French-speaking women theologians, Protestants and Catholics from Europe, Africa and Quebec. In twelve powerful texts, these theologians offer us a feminist reading of certain passages of the Bible that speak of women.

Father Remi Limoges died peacefully on 7 March at Rene Goupil House, Pickering. He was in his 94th year and in his 74th year of religious life. Remi was a great reader and would gladly engage in good conversation. He was a wise counselor.

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