GARCIA: Empty is a good thing

April 13, 2021

How often do we relate the word “empty” to something negative? Empty wallet? Empty bank account? What about an empty gas tank?

It can be as great as the emptiness felt enduring the loss of a loved one or as small as the feeling you get when you take a sip of your coffee and realize your cup is now empty. Yet, while emptiness may be perceived as a negative thing, emptiness is a powerful and positive part of our faith.

The empty tomb might be the first thing we think about. It served as a symbol of Jesus’s victory over sin and death. However, prior to this, we find the power of emptiness through Jesus’s humility in seeking to fulfill the Father’s plan for salvation.

In order for His mission to be completed, Jesus emptied Himself to fully allow the Father’s will to be done. This attitude is expressed so well when Jesus knelt in prayer at the Mount of Olives, saying, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Just as emptiness played a role in Christ’s ministry and mission, so too does it play a role in our lives and in our call to fulfill the mission of Christ. As we learn to empty ourselves of worldly distractions that hinder God’s will from being fulfilled in us, we can then offer our complete self to God, experiencing a resurrection moment and a new life in Christ. And so, we look back to our Lenten season and recall the three pillars of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, which call us to seek God in prayer, relinquish our attachment to material things by fasting, and thus become more charitable through almsgiving.

Pillars that call us to emptiness so that, through word and deed, we live out the prayer, “not my will but Yours be done.” By doing so, we can live outside of ourselves and better fulfill Christ’s mission to love God and neighbor.

Personally, as a pastoral minister of one of over 60 DSF funded programs, I see a great opportunity to fulfill Christ’s mission. The ministry of Special Youth Services (SYS) provides a variety of services to youth ages 10 to 17 detained in juvenile justice centers and facilities throughout several counties within our local Archdiocese.

Working with youths in these facilities, we are challenged to love and serve unconditionally by emptying ourselves of any preconceived notions, any stereotypes, any personal agendas and simply say, “Not my will be done, but Yours.”

It is so easy to get caught up in the routine of our daily lives, but SYS — like other DSF programs — offers a way to empty ourselves and help serve others in a way that allows them to feel the love of Christ. As we continue in the celebration of the Easter season, may we strive for a continual attitude of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, willing to run on empty so that we may instead be filled daily with the will of the Father in our journey to fulfill the mission of Christ. †

Deacon Fernando Garcia is a pastoral minister with the Special Youth Services ministry.