The Warmth of Lent
Fr. Larry Chapman
Do you remember the 71 degree day in February, and for that matter the pretty warm weekends we’ve had lately? I’ve suggested to a few people that maybe this year we should just skip Lent and go right to Easter. One person thought the Archdiocese would have a problem with that! That’s probably true, but I’ve since thought that our loving God would also have a problem with our skipping Lent.
Think for a moment of one (or more) of the best family gatherings you’ve had in your life. For one thing, they probably included a meal, maybe a very large, expensive and fancy meal. Maybe it meant traveling a great distance for either yourself or other family members just for the few hours of the celebration. It probably took months, if not years, of planning – picking the right day and date, carefully coordinated with the myriad of events that fill all family calendars. It meant finding the best location, contacting all the right people, perhaps even saving money over some period of time just to be able to attend, let alone bring a worthy gift. It meant cleaning, cooking, baking, dry-cleaning the best clothes (do people still do that anymore?), writing, texting, calling so many people. These really special events do not just happen. They take preparation, work and sweat, physical and emotional energy, maybe agony and even heroic efforts at family reconciliation. And when all that effort leads to a celebration that is the topic of conversation for decades, you know all the work was worth it.
Our loving God indeed knows we need Lent! Even statistics over the past several years shows that after Christmas and Easter, Ash Wednesday is the third best Mass participation day of the year for Catholics – and it’s not even an official Holy Day! Oh yes, we give something away that day (free ashes), but I think so much more than that draws people to the Lord and to community. We realize that the magnificent celebration of life to which our God calls us when our pilgrimage on earth is complete, that best banquet beyond our imaginations, means a lot of work. It takes an honest self-evaluation in the warmth and truthful light of our loving God; a lot of letting go of resentments, angers and hurts; shedding of old selfish ways – it isn’t easy! But I’ll bet that if you’ve started the journey and realize how much you need it, it’s good to be in Lent again.
Now that we’re a little ways into Lent it may be necessary again to remember how much we need to be here. Watch and listen for the personal message to you that comes from the powerful Gospel stories that greet us this year and keep us on task.
- The vision of the Transfiguration that shines that future glory on all the turmoil and drudgery of the present
- The warm invitation of Jesus to the sinful Woman at the Well and to us too deep into our own sinfulness
- The gift of Sight to the Blind that goes so far beyond physical seeing
It’s nothing less than the call to us to leave our cold, selfish tombs as the Lord, the Resurrection and the Life cries out to us – all this given to us by the loving God who knows what we need.
Are you hoping for a sunny, warm, uplifting Easter Sunday filled with the finest brunch or dinner food and drink? Our God wants us to take in the banquet of life and come to its fullness in the Kingdom of God one day. Now all we need to do is the work of faithful disciples to be ready for Easter 2017 and well beyond. Come follow Jesus this Lent so you come to know him better than ever!