Every year of my life, Lent has marked a time of giving up extras, being a bit more austere, and considering my mortality. This year is different. Most of us have been doing without extras for almost 12 months – including things we didn’t think were extras, like human touch.
So what does it mean to enter Lent at a time of pandemic and winter storm? What does it mean to give something up when we’ve already given up so much, even heat and water? What does it mean to start considering our mortality when that thought has been simmering under all our daily tasks and interactions for so long?
It might be right this year to think of Lent from a different perspective. I am sure we all have plenty to be penitent about and we will – today and throughout the season – pray for the forgiveness of our sins. Yet, Lent is above all else a season of preparation. Preparation for Easter. We are entering a time of getting our hearts and minds and relationships ready to hear and accept the good news of Christ’s resurrection. There is always good news on the other side of sin and suffering.
I invite you to observe Lent in any way that gets you to Easter! The ashes we typically use on this day to remind us of mortality are not a requirement of our faith. They are a tool. This Ash Wednesday, we have other elements right in front of us that point to that mortality and also toward the coming celebration of life and resurrection.
Many of us are now looking at a landscape coated in snow and ice, which will melt and be replaced in time by new life. That is a great Lenten image of renewal and growth.
All of us have been isolated from one another for months, yet we hope for regathering to start again soon. That is a hopeful Lenten image of reconciliation and community.
During this Lent, even with a pandemic and a winter storm, we will still be preparing for Easter and all it means to us as Christians. Like the first Christians, we can prepare for baptism or the renewal of our vows. Like Christians in every age, we can use this time to ready ourselves for reconciling and reconnecting with those who have been made distant from us, whether by choice or circumstance.
In the darkest of times – and our Christian sisters and brothers around the world and across time have had many dark times – Christ is still a light for us.
My hope for all of us is that this Lent, like all those that came before it, will be a time when each of us individually and all of us together can grow in faith,
renew ourselves through penitence and study,
reflect on God’s goodness,
show generosity toward our sisters and brothers who are suffering…
…and through this prepare to greet once again a glorious Easter.