As we are about halfway through Lent, it is helpful to review our progress and journey so far. Some of us begin with bold and ambitious goals in how we are going to serve others and how we are going to pray. While my plans haven't panned out the way I would always like, there is some rich awareness developing in this Lenten season.
This Sunday's gospel was Luke's version of the parable of the barren fig tree. While the landlord desires to be done with it, the gardener urges him to give him one year to care for the tree to see if it will bear fruit. I identify with both the landowner's sentiment to just uproot the whole tree and be done with it, but I also identify with the gardener's desire to change the situation by caring for and nourishing the tree. Both the landowner and the gardener are frustrated and desire a fruitful tree but recommend quite different responses to the situation. There are many moments in my life that I think uprooting and doing away with things is the only answer. But this parable challenges me to recognize the good and holy in things that are outside my own schedule and plans.
This last year, I have worked with high school youth from the softball fields to sacramental prep for Confirmation. There have been many beautiful and touching moments, as well as many dry and barren experiences that I wish I could re-do. There have been encouraging conversations with teens as well as lesson plans gone awry. I've been encouraged by young people seeking a closer relationship with Christ and the Church as well and frustrated by others seemingly apathetic towards faith. I wish for many things to be different from the way they currently are. While it would be easy to step away and be done with it, I find God inviting me to care for, nourish, and fertilize the garden. This invitation reminds me there is grace in being present, responding to the need before me, and sometimes just showing up.
Over the last few weeks, I have been more intentional to not over-plan my time with teenagers I work with. I more fully embrace the opportunities to journey with them into fun conversations about the sacred and the mundane. The Fuller Youth Institute has recently recommended we reconsider the traditional ideas about the five to one adult-youth ratio to rather be five significant adult relationships for each teenager. This helps foster a sense of belonging and instill positive values in young people. My hope and goal is to be one of those five caring adults in the life of these young people.
The Lenten season invites us to move our feelings of regret to feelings of repentance. We are called to take action on our feelings and resolve to amend our life. As ministry leaders, we are called to listen and accompany the people we serve. Let us pray and discern how God calls us to bear fruit and recognize the goodness in our lives and others.