Pope John Paul II in 1983 said that Lent is a time “…of particular intimacy with God, in the secret places of our hearts and consciences.” I like that! It is the “why” of prayer fasting and generous giving. The season calls us to go deep within ourselves to …that secret place. No wonder you hear the echo from folks…” LENT Again!” It feels like we have been in Lenten days for more than a year of Covid shelter in place. This sacred season calls us to profound self-wrestling with some of the demons that startled us in our country and world as we socially distanced ourselves. What was it we saw about ourselves in the Jan 6th (the traditional Day of Epiphany) riot on our Capitol? Was it just a few good “ole” boys tanked up on the elections? Or was it a US frame of the fascism our parents fought against in World War II Nazi Germany? What if, when we weren’t looking, we became our worst enemy? People are asking.
These days — the one in the middle of all our disagreements. I found myself recently drawn to the title of a biography of the life of Dr. Bob Smith, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. “NOT GOD.” Imagine?!!! It takes a lifetime to get that into our heads and move it to the center of our hearts. I’m not God! We can finally relax. It invites us then to a foundational trust in a power greater than ourselves who restores and re-Lents.
But the ordinary “desert like” Lents of Christians in whatever climate of the world are the quiet, “daily sorting-out of options” that define us and direct us… first inward, then outward, those wrestlings that teach us to feel divine graces at work, the strength of good habits, the value of honesty and dependability. It slowly adds up to a holy integrity that exceeds our own efforts. It is the Holy Spirit with us and within us, whispering, “This way.” “That way.” “Be patient.” “Act now!” (adapted from a 2015 article by Pat Marrin in Celebration.) Jesus begins his public ministry with the words, “Now is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” This is our annual dusting off of our Baptisms to make them shine anew.
We received ashes on the crowns of our heads this Ash Wednesday. Our penances are hidden in our choices and relationships. Jesus’ words highlight that “Now” is our time of fulfillment. It is a season to prepare for a renew our baptisms at the Easter vigil and welcome newcomers. For now, all that is required is some more dedicated quiet time with Jesus in the desert. Who is to say that this Lent might not be our last? Or, more likely, that it won’t be the start of a new chapter in our personal story that will bring us closer to God…a more excellent Baptised me … more true to who and what I was created to be? The Sacrament of Penance is available this season for assistance with that conversion repair.
Much happening through the weeks of Lent here. Friday Stations of the Cross or Thursday afternoon Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament? How about a little fasting with our simple meatless Friday recipes? How about a little extra generous almsgiving…an undramatic giving away what you would spend on Friday meals to Operation Rice Bowl (Catholic Relief Services) as well as our St. Vincent de Paul’s Food Collection. How about seeking a little feedback from loved ones on how we present our faith?
“Heart maintenance and repair,” collectively and personally, has always been the focus of Christian Lent. Maybe we can offer it to the US society around us this year. We pray for the healing of all our inner “violences” and those that paralyze our government. Lent turns us to the “NOW,” to the God who can give new heart and new solutions to even our most impossible conflicts.
A gentle Week,
Fr. Michael Weldon, OFM