As I was at my desk preparing to write this article, suddenly all went dark. Lily kept on snoring over on her bed, and like everyone else around town on Sunday evening, I wondered what was happening. A glance out the window made it clear the entire neighborhood was without lights. There was nothing to do other than to sit and ponder the troubles of these days reflected in the pervasive anxiety among people.
The loss of electricity meant so much that we take for granted is gone so we might sort of begin taking stock of what is left: my flashlight, my phone (how charged is it? – could I charge it in the car?), blankets/warm clothes for a cold night, some way of cooking, etc., etc. Of course, the electricity returned and all returned to normal – but should it?
The holy season of Lent has now begun and Christians are urged to embrace these forty days, maybe as if the lights are out. For me, when everything is “turned off” and I cannot busy myself with doing stuff, I settle down and enter into some welcome quiet. It is in the quiet that I turn to God and, in that space, God can get through to me! The overarching invitation of Lent is to prepare to approach the center of our Hope in the Resurrection of Jesus at Easter. It is prayer that opens us to the power of this truth and the outflow of joy it yields.
All of us can find these times frightening as we see and hear breakdowns of order and civil discourse and our children hear horrible “breaking news” alerts. What we seek and that for which we hunger can be found within, not outside of us. It is in our humble seeking God in the quiet where we can find peace.
Lights out also lets me see how much stuff is crammed into my day, because I cannot see it, do it, eat it or turn-it-on. It’s a type of fasting, which is the second pillar of the Lenten journey. That really means cutting back and/or cutting out whatever. Introducing an element of self-denial into my Lenten days frees me to be more attentive to Grace and the gift of so much all around me, often taken for granted.
Lights-out quickly makes me think of others for whom such times might be perilous; elderly who are alone, folks who are ill, families in need, those struggling with addiction and mental illness. These moments help me recognize how blessed I am and how important it is that I share my blessings, in whatever way possible with others. So, it is that almsgiving, acts of kindness, and generosity is the third pillar of the Lenten journey.
Combined, these three pillars of the Lenten journey offer us valuable tools to seek and find a much-needed refreshment in this disturbing time. We all know it will pass, yet it is in this moment we find ourselves. The Scriptures express an urging to live into today, now. Let’s turn out the lights and get going.
First Sunday of Lent
March 5/6, 2022
The second reading from Saint Paul to the Romans is a favorite of those involved in the ministry of evangelization.
There are no “secret” disciples of the Lord.
Those who exercise good stewardship of their faith realize that publicly identifying themselves as followers of Christ has a cleansing effect on their lives.
Openly confessing Christ makes them more conscious of how they live their daily lives.
Are we content to privatize our faith or are we good stewards of a faith that we share, make public, and regularly identify as a life in Christ?