Dear friends in Christ,
Did you ever play hide and seek as a child? I did! One of the rules was that the seeker had to yell out, “ready or not, here I come!” before the search began. I feel like our liturgical year is saying to us, “ready or not, here Lent comes!”
As Fr. Tim Schenck and I wrote in our annual Ash Wednesday reflection over on Lent Madness, it may seem like it’s always Lent and never Easter, to echo C. S. Lewis. But we know that, regardless of our state of mind, the tomb was empty on Easter morning, and Jesus Christ is raised from the dead.
Still, it’s hard for many of us to wrap our minds around this Lenten season. We’re in the midst of a pandemic, in which many thousands of people have died. At the moment, thousands of people are without electricity and suffering from extreme winter weather. We’ve all seen political turmoil. Most of us are deprived of our usual church gatherings and rituals.
How can we go about our usual Lenten disciplines? Should we?
This is a year to remember the essential core of Lent. It is not, primarily, a season of deprivation. It is not, fundamentally, a season of programs and familiar habits. It is, instead, a season in which we reorient our lives toward Jesus.
Perhaps in the midst of a pandemic, simply getting through the days and weeks is enough. We can’t be disciples if we are missing basic human needs. Perhaps in a time when we are deprived of so much, this is a time to savor what we have. I’m not telling you fasting is bad! Far from it. But I am saying this won’t be the usual Lent for any of us.
St. Paul knew plenty about suffering and deprivation. Allow me to quote at length a bit from today’s assigned epistle reading from 2 Corinthians.
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
This Lent, let us remember that even as we sorrow, we can rejoice in the mighty power of God. The Spirit abides with us. Jesus has offered us all his saving grace.
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