Living Lent has been real! In many ways, we have experienced a year-long Lent. Or so it seems because of all the ways in which we have sacrificed. We have sacrificed through social distancing, through participating in essential only activities. Ours has been a fast from receiving the Eucharist. Our almsgiving has included outreach to many in need. This COVID pandemic has revealed more people than ever who are vulnerable and in need. Our service has included phone calls to check up on people, written notes of encouragement, volunteering at the Food Bank, listening to and assisting our sisters and brothers through St. Vincent de Paul. We have prayed novenas and rosaries and had fervent conversations with God asking for mercy and an end to the suffering of many. We have advocated for the unemployed and fed the hungry. Living Lent has been real.
So what is different about these 40 days? In RCIA, we call this portion of the journey to Baptism the Period of Purification and Enlightenment. As a parish community, eager to participate in the Baptism of our catechumens, we enter into this process and accompany them. In the midst of all that we are “living,” this Lent especially invites us to identify where we are in need of purification. What are we learning from our reflections on this past year? How are we being enlightened? Who are our companions on this journey? What is God creating in our midst? What is new?
Our Scripture readings remind us to remember God’s covenant with Noah (and us) asking us to reverence all of God’s creation, including our earth, our common home. On God’s part, the covenant includes God’s promise to always be with us in unconditional love. Mark’s Gospel tells us only that Jesus spent40 days in the desert with “wild beasts” and was ministered to by angels. During this year of Lent, we too have experienced “wild beasts”—those of violence and threats of violence, racial discrimination, lies and propaganda, executions, the climate crisis, food insecurity and many more. Who are the “angels” ministering today? What will save us? How will we act?
Lent is an invitation to conversion—to turning things around, to be given a second chance. It comes to awaken us, to identify ways that we can return to a focus on God’s work in our lives. What is it that is not right in our personal lives, in society, in the Church that we need to change? Where do we need to create anew direction?
We do not do this alone. God is always faithful, incredibly faithful, unrelentingly faithful! God accompanies us with mercy and compassion, goodness and forgiveness. Let us be open and honest, willing to take “desert” time to reflect on what God is creating in us.