|(Photo courtesy: Jean Mark Arakelian)|
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1. To do what matters most
As we begin our Lenten journey, what are our uppermost thoughts? We started the Covid-19 lockdown during Lent last year, (March 2020). For many, the outbreak of the Corona pandemic has been a long, unending Lent. Many have lost their dear and near ones; a lot of our known acquaintances have lost their job, work and cut in their salaries; the majority of students including the tiny tots have not entered the school premises. Many have postponed marriages, jubilees, Final Vows, sacraments, and other family and community celebrations. The onslaught of Covid-19 has been felt across every sector of our life, be it economics, politics, social, cultural, religion, and so forth. In this context, we begin our 40 days of Lenten journey which leads to Easter. It is certainly a time to take stock of the things of our life and see what matters to us most. We might look at ourselves, look at those around us, look at where we are, consider where we might like to be. In other words, it is a time to reflect on our lives, a time of self-reflection or self-introspection, repentance and identifying areas for spiritual growth, to take a decision, and to make a fresh start. This will help us to discover our joy and anguish, temptation and fear, thus we may opt resolutely for honesty and integrity, clarity of vision and acceptance, generosity and gentleness. Without a doubt, putting ashes either on our forehead or on the head will symbolize that we are ready to do that wholeheartedly and without postponing it.
II Choosing God over everything
A few things might be useful in our quest for truth and truth of our existence who is no other than God Himself during this Lent. As we are in the middle of the second month of the year 2021, this is the right opportunity for us to think about what is that helping us to carry forward our life in the spirit, i.e, spiritual journey. As Christians, we are people of faith, hope and love. "There is nothing which can separate us from the love of God," says St Paul (Rom 8:28-29). In our vision of God and in our search for God's unconditional love for us, we are called to make a change. Jesus would tell boldly, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). No other liturgical season gives so much space for conversion, change and transformation of our life as Lent. So, this is the time to spend more time in prayer, to fast and penance, to mend our language, to be charitable and share what we have with others who are in need, and see what is that truly important for us. What changes will you make this Lent? The unflinchable spiritual light of our Lord Jesus Christ who is going to be the focus of our attention during the Lenten season should help us to shine that light into the hidden recesses of our hearts.
III. Only God can heal the fragile humanity
Time and time again, pandemics, natural disasters, wars, ecological imbalances and so on have taught us that our life here on earth is fragile and interdependent. Therefore what we need in this time of world health crises, when even science with its artificial intelligence (AI) is so limited and constrained, we are invited to look for something higher, better and eternal. When our mobiles are able to respond to us with their AI, but are unable to give us solutions to our human problems. In such stupidity of our life what we certainly must do is to take time to heal and find new ways of being a community. Prophet Joel of the Old Testament reminds us that we are called to turn back to God who is full of tenderness and compassion, rich in mercy. In our turn, we too need to turn outwards to our brothers and sisters in being gentle, generous and merciful. When one part of our body suffers then the whole body suffers. When a part of humanity suffers the whole human race suffers. In a world of interconnectedness, this pandemic has given us a powerful message that we are part of one human family with the same hopes, dreams and fears. This pandemic is not about a particular country or race but of the entire human race which, needs God's healing.
IV. Being rooted and grounded in the mystery of God's love
One of the great lessons since the last Lent that we have learnt is to become more acquainted with solitude. With our fears and anxieties, we have turned to God more than any other time in order to seek His mercy and healing. As Ash Wednesday allows us to be immersed into the mystery of God dying for me in order to save me we might like to reflect on how God reveals Godself in solitude and in small, almost hidden ways. The reality of life is experienced powerfully in suffering and pain. How would you like to start again this Lent? How would you like to practice turning towards God in your daily life and relationships? Do you experience the Lord as “gracious and merciful” as we hear in Prophet Joel? Is that how you normally think of God? Does a particular moment of grace and mercy stand out to you in your journey with God?
As we specifically look at Jesus, his suffering, his passion and his death during this season, we may ask for the grace of strong faith to dwell in our hearts. So that being rooted and grounded in love we will have power, together with all the saints, comprehend the length and width, height and depth of the love of Christ for me (Eph 3: 17-19). Thus our relationships are renewed with God, with one another, and with creation. Let us commit today to doing just that challenge. Let this Lent be a time of real atonement. “Behold, now is a very acceptable time” (2 Cor 6: 2). We ask for the grace of courage and conviction.
God of love, fill my heart with your compassion and mercy. Throughout my Lenten journey inspire me to come to know you better and to reach out to others in love. Amen.
- Olvin Veigas, SJ
16 February 2021