Lent a time to prepare for the trials of Christian life

I can imagine what it was like to be Simon Peter standing by a fire, in a cold courtyard, on a terrifying night. Jesus had been arrested and was being tried in the house of the high priest. I can imagine waiting in the dark, afraid for what would happen next, wondering whether I might be arrested, too. I can imagine the doubt, the uncertainty, the sadness and the anger.

I can imagine the denial of Christ, three times, tumbling from the mouth of Peter, who was suddenly afraid, embarrassed perhaps, and doubting whether Christ was all he claimed to be—fearing more for his own life than for Christ’s.

I can also imagine the sorrow and regret that Peter experienced. The tears shed for the shame at having denied Jesus Christ. Hours before, dining at the Last Supper, Peter promised that he would die before disowning the Lord. At the very first test, he failed.

The great theologian Romano Guardini says that at the last supper, “Peter means what he says. He loves his Master and is ready to die for him. But Jesus looks through this love and sees that it is nothing he can count on.”

When we abandon our Christian commitment in times of difficulty, we demonstrate a need to grow in faith—we demonstrate, perhaps even to ourselves, a greater faith in our own resources than in the plan or providence of God. We cannot express our love for Christ when we do not trust in his providential care for our lives.

No matter how strongly we feel about our Christian faith, or the Church, or Jesus Christ—Peter demonstrated that strong feelings aren’t enough. In the Christian life, we need a faith in God’s plan that influences every decision that we make—no matter how we’re feeling or what difficulties we’re facing. We must place our trust and confidence in the grace our Lord promises.

As Lent begins, all of us should consider whether our love is something Jesus can count on—whether we have faith enough to love him even in fear and doubt, in times of persecution. Lent is a time to consider how our commitment to Christ can be strengthened—how we can find the kind of faith that is reliable even in times of doubt, uncertainty or anger.  During Lent, increased discipline in prayer, sacraments and charity allows God to instill in us an enduring faith in the Father’s providential plan for our lives. Lent, in this Year of Faith, allows us to pray for a deeper faith, asking the Lord to “increase our faith” in Jesus Christ and the Church.

“Lent invites us,” Pope Benedict XVI said last week “…to nourish our faith by careful and extended listening to the word of God and by receiving the sacraments, and at the same time to grow in charity and in love for God and neighbor, not least through the specific practices of fasting, penance and almsgiving.”

When we make our plans for Lent, we should commit to times of prayer—of Mass, adoration, and sacred Scripture. We should plan to pray with our family. We should plan fasts—many of us will fast from television, Facebook, or favorite foods. But we should also plan for real acts of charity. Charity, says the Holy Father, “allows us to open ourselves to God’s love, … allows him to live in us and to bring us to love with him, in him and like him; only then does our faith become truly ‘active through love’ (Gal 5:6); only then does he abide in us.”

We live in a world in which it is ever more difficult to be a Christian. A world in which opportunities to deny Christ are abundant. The trials of Lent are a time to prepare for the real trials of the Christian life. Let us prepare through our commitment to prayer, to sacrifice and to charity. In the discipline of Lent, we abide deeply in Christ no matter how we feel—and he abides deeply, and generously, in us, for he is always faithful to his promises.

COMING UP: Team Samaritan cyclist goes ‘Everesting’ for the homeless and hungry

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When it comes to the daily sufferings of those who are homeless, there’s nothing like a 29,029-foot bike ride to keep things in perspective.

That’s exactly what Corbin Clement will be doing this Saturday, June 19, with a couple of his riding buddies as they attempt an “Everesting” ride to raise money for the Samaritan House homeless shelter in Denver. Starting at Witter Gulch Road in Evergreen, the three riders will climb Squaw Pass Road to a point in Clear Creek County and ride back down the hill for over eight laps, which amounts to roughly 190 miles in distance and the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing – hence the name “Everesting.” Their goal is to complete the feat in 20 hours or less.

Oh, and they can’t sleep. It is, indeed, just as crazy as it sounds. Those who aren’t avid cyclists might be wondering, “How in the world do you train for something like this?” 
 
“For training, it’s been just more or less ride as much as possible,” Clement told the Denver Catholic. “The training is structured around endurance, and that’s of course what Everesting is. It’s just a lot of peddling. So, a lot of my training so far has just been trying to ride as much as possible and ride longer high elevation rides.” 

In March, an Irish cyclist set the world record for Everesting when he completed the feat in six hours and 40 minutes. Clement isn’t trying to set a record, but regardless, it’s quite a feat to undertake, even for a seasoned athlete like him, whose pedigree includes snowboarding and rock climbing. 

“Our ride will be the same thing, but it’ll be pretty different,” Clement said. “We don’t have any sort of special bikes or super focused diet or a really regimented plan or a crew that’s very well-instructed on how we’re going to tackle this. I’ve read a couple of things to just kind of make it into a party — have friends come out to support you, get people to join you on certain laps…that’s kind of the approach we’re taking.” 

Clement has already raised $5,200 for Samaritan House, with a current goal of $8,000. This is Clement’s first year riding for Team Samaritan, but his dad, Kevin, has ridden for the team for several years. When his dad offered to give him an extra kit and uniform, Clement accepted, but didn’t want to take it without doing something help the cause. He could’ve simply opted for a nice ride in the countryside, but he chose to do something a bit more challenging.  

Corbin Clement used to experience the challenges that homeless people face on a daily basis when commuting through downtown Denver to work on his bike. This Saturday, he will raise money for Samaritan House homeless shelter by “Everesting,” a 190-mile bike ride that is the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing. (Photo provided)

“For some reason, the Everesting idea popped into my head,” he explained. “I think it’s one of those things that has a little bit of shock value for people who hear about it. It’s certainly something that’s gained more popularity and visibility in the last couple of years with endurance athletes. I wanted to choose something that would actually be a challenge for myself and something that I’d have to work towards.” 

Clement currently resides in Utah, but he used to live in Denver and commute by bike to work every day. During those rides to his office, which was located near Samaritan House, he would pass many homeless people and have conversations with them. This experience was also a motivating factor for his Everesting attempt for Team Samaritan. 

“It’s very different when you’re on a bike versus in a car because you’re right there,” Clement said. “If you stop at a stoplight and a homeless person is on the corner, whether or not they’re panhandling or something like that, you hear the conversations, or you’ll have a conversation with them. There are things you smell or you hear or you see that you just never would if you were in a car. So, it kind of made sense, too, with the biking aspect. It’s part of my community that I’ve lived and worked in for a very long time.” 

Clement’s Everesting attempt is one event in a series of endurance event’s he’s doing over the summer that culminates with the Leadville 100, a single-day mountain bike race across the Colorado Rockies. In that race, he will be riding to support young adults diagnosed with cancer by raising funds for First Descents.  

Both causes are near to Clement’s heart, and he said that while his Everesting attempt will be a form of “suffering,” it pales in comparison to what the homeless face day in and day out. This is ultimately why he’s riding and raising funds for Team Samaritan. 

“Any time we see a homeless person or people who have to live on the streets,” Clement said, “That is true suffering — true endurance — with no end in sight.” 

To learn more about Corbin’s fundraising efforts or to donate, click here.