Click here if you don’t see subscription options
Keara HanlonMarch 18, 2022
Photo by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash

A Reflection for the Friday of the Second Week of Lent

“When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables,
they knew that he was speaking about them.
And although they were attempting to arrest him,
they feared the crowds, for they regarded him as a prophet” (Mt 21:45-46)

If you had told 14-year-old me that I’d be working for a Catholic magazine and writing a reflection for Lent, I would have said you were crazy. At that age, I felt like I had so much faith and nowhere to put it. I loved God, but I hated spending time with his people because I felt constantly rejected.

At church, the homilies were more like rants. During “Respect Life Month,” the homily diverged into a sidebar that families who seek fertility assistance disobey the will of God because, like Nazis, they want to pick and choose a child’s features so that they might have blonde hair and blue eyes. Besides representing a fantastic misunderstanding of how fertility assistance actually works, the homily was really hurtful to my parents, who had needed medical help in having my sister and me. My mom made a tearful dash for the door after Communion, her two “sins” in tow.

I went through Confirmation training because my parents said that I could stop attending youth group once I had completed the sacrament. I hated youth group.

Each week we were taught the Catholic teaching on a moral issue. During the portion of the two hours when we were allowed to ask questions, I was frequently reprimanded for genuine curiosity by people who believed my questions were the mark of a disturbing lack of faith rather than a genuine desire to learn more about a God I loved. “Were you even raised Catholic?” someone asked me. I am a cradle Catholic, born to cradle Catholics who were born to cradle Catholics (and so on). “Doesn’t seem like it,” they remarked, dodging my questions.

For Catholics who, like me, struggle with feeling rejected from their church, I feel your pain. The good news is, Jesus does, too.

Readings like today’s remind me why I stayed when it would have been easier to leave the church. The first reading is an important reminder that one of the most painful forms of rejection we face is from our own brothers (and sisters) in Christ. It is in the spaces that we should feel safe, loved and supported that rejection is most jarring and damaging. Betrayal hurts the worst when it comes from within our own community, like Joseph’s own brothers selling him for 20 pieces of silver.

Thankfully, if there’s anyone who understands rejection, it’s Jesus. Like Joseph in the first reading and the landowner’s son in the Gospel parable, Jesus, too, faced jealousy, hatred and rejection from his own people. It was not strangers who put Jesus on the cross but those who had once loved and welcomed him.

In the moments when I am most deeply struggling with my relationship with the church, I find solace in Jesus’ love for me, which I have always known was there. When the priest raged from the pulpit, Jesus looked upon my family with mercy and an understanding of what it's like to be pushed out of one’s own community. When I was punished for my questions at youth group, Jesus was there, too, reminding me of Matthew 18:3: “...become like little children.” What are children if not innocently curious?

For Catholics who, like me, struggle with feeling rejected from their church, I feel your pain. The good news is, Jesus does, too. I hope you can find healing and hope during this Lenten season.

Get to know Keara Hanlon, O’Hare Postgraduate Media Fellow

What are you giving up for Lent?

Normally, I would probably give up sweet tea (because I am truly addicted). However, discussions with other staff members this Lent have encouraged me to focus on the joy of the resurrection rather than on the suffering that seems to pervade the season, so I’m not giving something up this year. The anniversary of a friend’s suicide overlaps with Lent each year, and this can make it all too easy to focus on the sadness in the season. This year, I’m trying extra hard to focus on the promise of eternal life that comes from Jesus’ sacrifice and God’s mercy.

Favorite non-meat recipe

A New York dollar slice of cheese pizza always hits the spot.

Favorite Easter hymn

The gospel song “God So Loved the World” gives me chills. Its lyrics offer a beautiful balance between acknowledging the sacrifice and suffering present in Christ’s death while also truly celebrating the resurrection, which is sometimes overlooked.

More: Lent / Scripture

The latest from america

In this episode of “Inside the Vatican,” hosts Colleen Dulle and Gerard O’Connell bring you inside the G7 summit and Pope Francis' meeting with comedians.
Inside the VaticanJune 20, 2024
A Homily for the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, by Father Terrance Klein
Terrance KleinJune 20, 2024
Pope Francis and a nine member Council of Cardinals heard presentations from women experts on the role of women in the church through the lens of canon law.
Ultimately, it is up to each of us to prayerfully discern the individual contribution we can make. Guided by our faith and Catholic social teaching, we can do our part to support a just peace in Israel-Palestine.