“Thus says the Lord:
Now I am going to create new heavens and a new earth,
Just a month ago we were picking our Lenten practices and penances and back then on Ash Wednesday we never imaged that a virus would bring us to our knees with a universal reminder of our frailty, our fragility, and our vulnerability.
Perhaps the unwelcome challenge we face is a call for us to re-think Lent 2020?
Lent is a springtime of noticing the action of God who is creating a new heaven and a new earth here and now among us.
Perceptive people can see that our old ideas of heaven and life on earth are falling from our grasp as we realise that the little games we play with projects and goals, success, ambition and achievement are powerless to deliver the stability and happiness that they promise.
This feels deathly since we fear losing these earthly securities. But already we perceive something new emerging in the tragedy and we like some of what we see. It causes us to smile in hope when we see Italians in isolation leaning out their apartment windows every night at six to sing.
This Lenten call is an in-our-face challenge to let go of attachments, the things we naively think will deliver us happiness, so that we might experience the freedom which is essential for healthy and happy human life. This growth requires letting go of our captive existence in little wombs of earthly securities.
Our Lenten projects run the risk of becoming little games we play ambitiously giving up a pleasure or praying a bit more. But being able to pick and choose our Lenten disciplines is perhaps an artificial luxury. Our real opportunity for growth comes when we face the unchosen reality that presents itself, the relationship insecurity, the financial uncertainty, the health struggle and family tensions. We do not choose these sufferings, and they are real and unavoidable.
In these weeks we face a virus which confronts us with death. We did not choose this and we do not deserve it. But it is real, and Lent is above all a time of facing reality discovering that when we are feeling vulnerable we turn to Jesus, and when we turn to Jesus with the humble desperation of a beggar, then we are inviting Jesus to work miracles of healing. growth and renewal in us.
A friend of mine reflected this week:
“This health emergency is screaming that I’m not in control. Today, I cannot go where I want, I’m told to change my work routine without end in sight. A few days ago it dawned on me that my health, and the health of those I love, can be at risk at any moment. Suddenly, I realised that my health, my life is not in my hands.”
A couple of invitations:
“Take a moment to savour Pope Francis’ Lenten encouragement.
Lent is a new beginning,
a path leading to the certain goal of Easter,
Christ’s victory over death.
This season urgently calls us to conversion.
Christians are asked to return to God “with all their hearts” (Joel 2:12),
to refuse to settle for mediocrity
and to grow in friendship with the Lord.
Jesus is the faithful friend who never abandons us.
Even when we sin, he patiently awaits our return;
by that patient expectation,
he shows us his readiness to forgive
Experience some hope as you watch this brief clip of Italians in isolation discovering solidarity in solitude. Love the little boy covering his ears at the end!