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 | By Father Dwight Ezop

Living Our Faith Daily Leads to Joy and Holiness

As I write this, the season of Lent is very near to its end. The days of prayer, fasting and charity are about to give way to Holy Week and the joys of Easter. In the world of church, the celebrations of Resurrection and new life are just around the corner. In the world outside my window, weather that once was cloudy, cold and snowy is giving way to the warmth of spring. Lawns are slowly greening and the tulips and other spring flowers are just poking out of the soil. These are sure signs that the warmth and growth of spring are just ahead.

As we make our way through the season of Easter, how do we sense the work of God’s grace that happened in our lives during this past Lent? Did our fasting bring about a greater ability to master our physical appetites – those hungers for food, power, influence, success or importance that can become too easily unbalanced? In responding to God’s grace and in working to master those appetites, we come to understand that our most fundamental hunger is our longing for God. This is a hunger that transcends the 40 days of Lent, one which can urge and guide our everyday living.

What is true for the Lenten discipline of fasting is equally true for the other Lenten practices of prayer and charity. Each of these can help to guide us to a naturally growing relationship with God as we devote continued time and energy to intimate conversation with God in our prayer. At the same time, we allow God’s grace to open our eyes to the needs of those around us and how we can more consistently use our God-given resources to support those who are in need.

Hopefully we did not just endure Lent, but rather had the opportunity to joyfully grow and change in little or big ways, drawing closer to God and living each day more clearly as disciples of Jesus. In other words, the disciplines of Lent help us to grow as disciples of Jesus.

As I often reflect in my preaching at Mass, we know that Jesus is right: The more we live our faith daily, the deeper our sense of intimacy with God and the deeper our sense of closeness to our sisters and brothers in Christ.

It sounds so simple, but it is often something that can take us a lifetime to realize, accept and live.

One of the great gifts I receive from God as a priest and pastor is the opportunity to witness what happens in the lives of people as they seek to live their faith more fully in their daily lives. One of the most interesting ways I have seen this is through the lives of the teachers who minister in our parish school. The daily opportunity to teach in a Catholic school offers them both the challenge and the privilege of living as models of faith for the students and families they serve. At the same time, the witness of their students’ young faith calls them to continually grow in their own maturing faith.

One of the most beautiful aspects of this journey is that I have witnessed teachers who have spent a whole career in education find that teaching in a Catholic school helps to call them to deeper faith. In more than a few cases, it even calls them to new faith. Just as I see the faith of students come alive in the setting of a Catholic school, so too, I have seen the faith of teachers come alive in ways they never anticipated. Such is the case for a teacher such as Ann Williams who, after a long and fulfilling career in public education, accepted the invitation to teach in a parish school. In the pages ahead you can learn more about how this unanticipated opportunity has helped to deepen Ann’s faith and how it brings her great joy.

As you read this, we are well into the Easter season, and yet we should not let go of the lessons of Lent. Our desire to spend more time in prayer, to be more focused on the needs of others and to be less focused on our own wants is a path for lifelong growth as disciples. It is a path that can daily lead us to deeper joy and holiness. And so, our journey in FAITH continues.

Father Dwight Ezop is the editor of FAITH Magazine and pastor of St. Mary Parish, Charlotte and St. Ann Church, Bellevue