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Charlene Howard, M.A.

“And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. . . And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you." Matthew 6:4b & 6b

Our 9-year-old grandson is energetic, inquisitive, and kind-hearted, yet he struggles with anger. Routinely his mother receives a report from school that he hit a student with a projected lunchbox or had a rage in class, resulting in him being removed. Though the school is working with the family, many of the strategies they’ve tried have yielded inconsistent results. Then suddenly, things changed! He has maintained regular positive reports for using self-control and anger management techniques that were already in place. He is very self-aware and can talk through how to problem-solve conflicts and maintain a positive outcome. What happened? A new baby sister may have been the key. His mother, during one of their morning pep talks after one of those days, included some new advice. She said, “When you get upset or frustrated, think of your baby sister.” From that day and months later, he has become a confident and self-controlled young man who can fully enjoy his elementary school experience. Somehow, the hidden impact of being a big brother to his new baby sister has become a powerful motivator, enabling him to make different choices.

In today’s scripture, the message that begins our Lenten journey emphasizes the importance of seeking God’s mercy and forgiveness as an urgent priority. We know we strive to live the life God requires, but our tendency to sin is still in us. Despite knowing that salvation in Jesus’ Paschal Mystery is coming, we easily act in selfish, angry ways. We must internalize Christ’s love as a tangible power source to motivate us to live as God wants us to. Embracing this to its fullest should be our motivation to change our violent, negative responses to ones that are more generous, effective, proactive, and productive at problem-solving and conflict resolution.

As we begin Lent, this Ash Wednesday, identify what is deep in your spirit to motivate you to act in non-violent ways of responding more effectively to situations you encounter. Remember that “your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” (Matt 6b)

Question. What are the violent words, actions, or activities that are a part of your daily life? Select one to fast from by replacing it with a more proactive practice for the next five weeks.

Author: Charlene Howard, M.A., Director of Spiritual Life at Archbishop Carroll High School, National Council Chair Pax Christi USA

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