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“Pause, in order to look and contemplate!”   Pope Francis

The last week in February, the second week in Lent, proved to be a great trial for many people in a way they had not been expecting.  The atrocious weather conditions up and down the country saw many people stranded in cars on motorways and other roads.  Sr Caroline Emmanuel and her Assistant Sr Mary Chantal were among those affected.  They found themselves pondering the words of our Holy Father Pope Francis; for two reasons: they were on the receiving end of so much kindness of strangers and they had plenty of time to

“Pause in order to look and contemplate!”

Held up for several hours on the A1 near Retford in Nottinghamshire because of severe weather conditions and a backlog of stranded vehicles gave us plenty of time to reflect on Pope Francis’s words.  As it turned out we were blessed because on that same night many less fortunate people up and down the country were forced to spend the whole night in their cars.

“Pause in order to look and contemplate!”

“See the gestures that prevent the extinguishing of charity, that keep the flame of faith and hope alive. Look at faces alive with God’s tenderness and goodness working in our midst”.

We witnessed these gestures.  The temperature was minus 5C and it felt like minus 12.  Two ladies from a nearby village, we think it was Elkesley a 20 minute walk, came to offer biscuits and chocolate to people stranded in their cars.  Despite the bitterly cold temperature their smiles were warm and their words consoling.  An hour later we saw these same ladies struggling back in blizzard conditions.  An hour later a young girl did the same and offered us a packet of biscuits.  Then two further people arrived from the village bearing hot drinks which were greatly appreciated.

We prayed the rosary in thanksgiving for such kindness and for all those who were suffering from the extreme cold.

“Pause in order to look and contemplate!”

“See the face of our families who continue striving, day by day, with great effort, in order to move forward in life, and who, despite many concerns and much hardship, are committed to making their homes a school of love.”

A gentlemen arrived from the village to invite us to the village Hall for a hot drink.  After a helping hand to climb over the A1 barrier we joined a group of other stranded souls and trudged half a mile to the Hall.  However, when we reached the Hall, Sister and I were invited by a kind couple to join them at their cottage.  We were introduced to their family and were treated with great kindness.  Their family was indeed “a school of love”.

In due course we were told that the road was sufficiently clear and we could resume our journey.  Another kind villager drove us back to our car on the A1 and we went on our way with much gratitude in our hearts for such a loving family and community.

We were running low on petrol and in the poor driving conditions we missed the service station.  We turned off the main road and came across a small pub-restaurant, near the railway line.  Once again we were welcomed with smiles and friendship and offered a hot meal.  Despite the extreme cold a gentlemen took a container and brought us back some petrol.  Everything was done with great serenity and an eagerness to render service with generosity and forgetfulness of self.  We left with thankfulness for the goodness and kindness of these people who were, after all, strangers to us.

Let us now meditate on the rest of Pope Francis’s reflection to help us profit fully from the graces of Lent.

“See the faces of our children and young people filled with yearning for the future and hope, filled with “tomorrows” and opportunities that demand dedication and protection. Living shoots of love and life that always open up a path in the midst of our selfish and meagre calculations.

See our elderly whose faces are marked by the passage of time, faces that reveal the living memory of our people.  Faces that reflect God’s wisdom at work.

See the faces of our sick people and the many who take care of them; faces which in their vulnerability and service remind us that the value of each person can never be reduced to a question of calculation or utility.

See the remorseful faces of so many who try to repair their errors and mistakes, and who from their misfortune and suffering fight to transform their situations and move forward.

See and contemplate the face of Crucified Love, who today from the cross continues to bring us hope, his hand held out to those who feel crucified, who experience in their lives the burden of failure, disappointment and heartbreak.

See and contemplate the real face of Christ crucified out of love for everyone, without exception. For everyone?  Yes, for everyone.  To see his face is an invitation filled with hope for this Lenten time, in order to defeat the demons of distrust, apathy and resignation. The face that invites us to cry out: “The Kingdom of God is possible!”

Pause, see and returnReturn to the house of your Father.  Return without fear to those outstretched, eager arms of your Father, who is rich in mercy (cf. Eph 2:4), who awaits you.

Return without fear, for this is the favourable time to come home, to the home of my Father and your Father (cf. Jn 20:17).  It is the time for allowing one’s heart to be touched… Persisting on the path of evil only gives rise to disappointment and sadness.  True life is something quite distinct and our heart indeed knows this.  God does not tire, nor will he tire, of holding out his hand (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, 19).

Return without fear, to join in the celebration of those who are forgiven.

Return without fear, to experience the healing and reconciling tenderness of God.  Let the Lord heal the wounds of sin and fulfil the prophecy made to our fathers: “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek 36: 26).

Pause, see and return!”