Fr. Francis Alvarez, S.J. and His Reflections on Lent

Just before the Lenten Season started with Ash Wednesday, my husband and I found ourselves at the Ateneo de Manila High School, attending a sunset mass with the class of my son and his teacher, Mr. Onofre Pagsanghan. We were lucky to have Mr. Francis Alvarez, S.J., a very young priest, to share with us his views on Lent.

He began by reflecting on why the Lenten season began with Ash Wednesday, Wednesday being a half-way point during the week. He thought it was apt to start Lent somewhere in the middle since Lent is a time for remembering, for re-examining our lives based on what we have done. It is a time for re-starting; for re-booting since too often, people almost always find themselves in the “middle of things” given our very busy lives.

He then went on to say that Lent demands humility – for we must accept that we have all made mistakes. Lent demands that we fight inertia — because often, it is difficult to change for the better. (O, ba’t siya biglang nagbago? Ano ang nakain niya? or What led to the sudden change? What has he eaten?) But always, Lent gives us hope because it is never too late to change; it is never to late to make a choice. Lent asks us: “Where will you go?” Then Fr. Francis reminded all of us that our God is the God of second, third, fourth…chances.

As a young priest, Fr. Francis narrated that one of the most difficult parts of the Eucharist for him is when he “breaks the Body of Christ.” He asks himself the question: “Why does Christ allow Himself to be broken?” In his reflection, the answer to his question comes: “So that when we are broken, we know that we are not alone.”

He then went on to tell the boys that: “I hope you get tested. I hope you enter into difficulty. I hope you experience failure. And when you are broken, I hope you remember and cling to the God that you met in 1-A.”

I am sure that we have all met God at some time in our individual lives. May the coming Holy Week allow us to have time to reflect on God’s great love for us. When we are tested; when we each enter into difficulty, when we experience failure, I hope that we will also remember the God we met and meet several times over and cling to the glory of the Cross.

Before the mass ended, Fr. Francis shared a personal story about how when he was young, all he wanted to be was to be richer than his dad. He then talked about his godfather who was so rich, that when Fr. Francis (as a child) and his dad would go visit his godfather, they would marvel at how big his godfather’s house was. It was so big that from the front gate, the driveway was so long that Fr. Francis could not see the front door. His godfather also had a pond, with swans, in the Philippines! The sight had such an impact on Fr. Francis that he dreamed of having a similar place, where you can’t see the front door from the front gate and where he would have a pond with swans too.

He ended his story by saying: “So, did I achieve my dream of becoming richer than my dad? I don’t know. But now I live at the Ateneo and from Gate 2…” (the audience who are listening to his story start to react and clap at this point) “…you cannot see my front door. And instead of swans, there’s a blue eagle…”

What’s the moral lesson of the story? Sometimes, we have a different plan from what God wants for us. We each have a choice though on how we will respond to God’s plan for us. This Lent, may you be brought closer to God’s great plan for you. And when you do enter into life’s difficulties (as there always will be), please remember Jesus on His cross and that you are never alone. After the suffering of Good Friday, comes the glory and joy of Easter Sunday. God bless.

2 Responses to “Fr. Francis Alvarez, S.J. and His Reflections on Lent”

  1. vebs says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Very timely… God bless

  2. Angel says:

    Thanks for your comment Vebs! God bless.

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