This week, Lent is upon us. When the COVID outbreak began nearly a year ago, none of us imagined it could last this long. We have denied ourselves so much in the past 11 months that we have to wonder, is there anything left for us to give up in the Lenten season?
Perhaps this time will be a little different. Perhaps this Lent must be more about what we can give each other. What is it that we need? We need hope.
The Lenten season is always one of hope. The depravations we impose to mirror Christ’s suffering and temptation in the desert lead us to Easter and his glorious rebirth.
Now, it is all of us who need rebirth. We need gatherings and family, schools and sports, date nights and movies. We need each other again. The experts tell us that April will be a turning point. That by the end of Lent the vaccines will be well underway and we will be close to normal. So this Lent must be a time for reflection and kindness.
This year has been one of cruelty, especially towards children. We have denied them everything. We have done it in the name of some uncertain safety. We have done it to protect ourselves. We have done it out of fear that life is nothing but living.
If you must leave your house, and you shouldn’t, put on two masks. Be afraid of death, it lurks everywhere, and we are not prepared for it. It and the avoidance of it is literally the only thing that matters. Dr. Fauci told me so.
But Lent has a message, in its turns both terrifying and glorious. You’re going to die. Your pointless little life is just a brief 40 days in a desert of temptation. It’s coming for you, man. So just give in. Do what you are told to do, enjoy the shows on TV and the nifty meals swifted to you off your apps. That’s it. That’s the ballgame. Tell your kids.
But I’m guessing that doesn’t sound terribly attractive. Something inside you rebels against this materialist ethos of “stay alive as long as possible no matter what.” It’s not very meaningful, is it? It’s like a boring video game. Something inside of you says it has to be more than this or why bother. That’s where Lent comes in.
Lent is a season of sacrifice, yes, but also of introspection. What do you want? Not just for you, but for your family, your community, your country? Lent is a time to set priorities. I’ve set one for myself. I want to live, as fully as I can. God gave me this time to experience the full vast wonderful crazy phenomenon of his creation. It’s right there. Most of the time I miss it because I am too much involved in myself.
So this year, the year of deadly pandemic, I am giving myself up for Lent. I want to spend more time looking outward and less time looking in. I don’t want to be locked away anymore. I need 40 days focused on others; I need something that means more than just me.
As we enter this Lenten season under the watchful eye of Christ our Lord, let us step back from ourselves and remember that we are not the first to suffer. Let’s cut ourselves a break.
This is a moment in which the willingness to live is the answer to how Satan is tempting us. We must not shy away.
This Lent is about living. It is about knowing that God protects us and we can no longer allow mortal powers to deny our children and us a full human life. As Catholics, we will fast. We will await Easter.
But if it is to be the great rebirth, as it ought to be, we cannot surrender our lives any longer to fear. We have 40 days. After that, no more fear. After that? Life returns to normal.