The penitential season of Lent provides Christians an opportunity to “join Jesus in the desert” for a while, so that we might meditate on what’s most important and eliminate the distractions and excesses that distance us from God.
Some Lents don’t beg for extra sacrifices, for they are “built in.” Take this year’s Lent, one I’m calling “Lent on steroids.” Yes, this Lent is kicking our proverbial behinds, and then some.
I’m not suggesting Lenten practices like fasting are not important. They are, perhaps more than ever. But giving up meat on Fridays seems paltry now, next to the other sacrifices being thrust upon us. There are the smaller, but still important ones, like our children’s graduations and other milestone events, vanished. Weddings, baptisms and even funerals have been postponed indefinitely. Jobs have disappeared overnight.
I haven’t even mentioned the heart-wrenching loss of being denied the chance to go to the bedsides of our loved ones who are dying, to hug those who are hurting, knowing our touch now can lead to death.
What we’re having to give up – our very sense of security and well-being – is unparalleled. Indeed, there’s never been a time we’ve needed God more. Even with faith to hold, we still grope in darkness, yet a light gleams ahead. It is this light alone that transcends what this fragile world can offer.
These five things comprise a partial list of what has helped me spiritually in these last, hard weeks. Consider them suggestions of hope, which I offer along with prayer for all.
Frame the Day: I first heard the concept of marking our mornings and evenings with prayer to “frame our days” years ago, and it remains a helpful visual in these times. Each morning now, I watch Mass online, a candle burning nearby, and every evening, partake, with my husband, in an online night prayer with the same pastor. This has been a spiritual lifeline.
Pastoral blessing: Our spiritual leaders want to bless us, especially now. I found Pope Francis’s Urbi et Orbi blessing for the world on Friday, March 27, tremendously beautiful and uplifting, and intended for all. If you haven’t seen it yet, find it online on EWTN, and witness the world in need of, and united in, prayer.
Perspective: When World War II Auschwitz victim Edith Stein realized, on a train heading to a “work camp,” that she would no longer have access to the Eucharist, she wrote home, saying: “Now we have a chance to experience a little how to live purely from within.” When God lives within us, we are never alone.
Scripture: John 11:35, “Jesus wept,” says it all. The God of life is with us in our sorrow.
Dragon Slayer: A priest in Helsinki, Finland, recently shared, in an online Mass, “Death has always been the dragon that casts darkness over the brightest days. Jesus is the one who slays the dragon with divine love.” Only God’s love liberates forever, he assured. Believe, and live.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on April 6, 2020.]