Wednesday, April 12, 2017

For the Love of Lent

"Lent -- I just can't get into it..."
Yes, there are people who love Lent! I don’t know about you, but I am not one of them. I am delighted that Lent is progressing along toward its appointed end. But, I have to ask myself if Easter itself will mean anything to me if I have failed to appreciate the days of Lent. Why am I so ambivalent about this particular Season?

Celebrating the Feast of the Resurrection of Jesus is not a problem; I “rejoice with those who rejoice” at His victory, but does it really touch me? And, will Easter touch me as it should if I haven’t felt the discomfort of Lent? If I haven’t experienced even the smallest suffering of penance, can I really feel any genuine Easter joy?

"Okay I'll watch, okay I'll pray.
Now what?"
Perhaps I am excusing myself now for such thoughts by imagining that I am satisfied with just the joy of group celebration: we rejoice together as a community, as a parish, as a family. But now while I am thinking about how I am “doing” Lent, it is dawning on me that I am missing something. Lent is a recurring season, so could there be a plan to it? What can I compare it to in order to help myself better understand it?

Well, it is Spring and that means only one thing to many people: it is the beginning of another season, the baseball season! Every year the various players come together for a preseason of practice. They spend just about the same amount of time preparing for their season as we spend with Lent. Why do they take all this time and expend all this energy every single year? If you were a good player last year, won’t you be a good player again this year? Those who follow the game religiously know the answer to that question.  And, at best, the answer is “iffy.” Players need time to stretch their muscles, tune up their reflexes, challenge their motivation and endurance, but more than that they need to bond with their teammates and enter once more into the culture of the game.

Spring training for the athlete; spring training for the soul?
Used with permission, wikicommons, by Terry Foote -
Sliding into third, CC BY-SA 2.0, 

This is also the wisdom of the Church in making us go through a period of “spring training” each year. We need to test our readiness once again. This is a chance to stand with Jesus in His time of testing, and to stand in for Jesus with our own time of testing. For Christians it is the process of growing in wisdom, age, and grace like Jesus. We are talking about the normal steps to maturity - in this case, the maturity of our Christian commitment. Slackers aren’t successful on a ball team and the disciples of Jesus can’t expect to be faithful followers of His if they don’t put in the time and effort. That is the purpose of Lent. It is a boot camp for believers! If following Jesus was a simple matter of the will, without any effort, we wouldn’t need Lent. But, we are blessed with these forty days each year to concentrate on building up the life of Christ within us.

Well, well, well, I might have just thought myself into a love affair with Lent. God be praised!

Sister Mary Lea Hill, a member of the Daughters of St. Paul since 1964, has enjoyed communicating the faith through a variety of apostolic assignments. Her skills as a story teller were honed as director of audiovisual productions when Pauline Books & Media first produced animated features in the early 80s. An editor and author for many years, Sister Mary Lea has written several books, including Prayer and You, Blessed are the Stressed, Saints Alive: The Gospel Witnessed, Saints Alive: The Faith Proclaimed, and the best-selling Basic Catechism (co-authored with Sister Susan Helen Wallace).

1 comment:

M-L Handal, NYC said...

What a wonderful image of Lent as a kind of Spring Training, like big-league baseball players! Each year we are different -- a little older, maybe a little wiser, maybe a little lost, maybe in a different place spiritually. Lent is indeed like a spiritual boot camp, not always fun or easy, but hopefully revealing and strengthening as we enter the joyful Easter Season to make our way through a new spiritual year of challenge and growth. Thank you, Sister Mary Lea for the meditation.