Lent 2022 = Reclaiming our JOY
Lent is the Church’s second cycle of preparation, celebration and rejoicing leading to the greater feast of Easter Resurrection.
We have spent the last two years in a worldwide pandemic which kept us closed in, shut out, cut off, locked down, and masked up. We have seen our capital violated by extremists who threatened the very democracy on which this country was founded. We faced unimaginable violence to our earth and its people; and we are now facing the real possibility of a third world war as we stand in solidarity with brothers and sisters around the globe who are being attacked by the evil humankind is capable of inflicting on each other. Social media has dehumanized the dignity of persons and has crushed the Christian values we hold so dear. No person, no family has remained untouched by some loss of every kind and dimension.
What if Lent 2022 is about reclaiming our joy and the good that can come from our relationship with Christ, our focus on prayer, and charity that allows us to receive each other as gracious gifts of God? What if Lent is not about saying “no” to any gift or blessing God has provided, but saying “yes” to the good works of the Spirit and accomplishing them in love? What if our Lenten practices give us a true perspective on who we are as our “child of God selves” dependent on the lives and love of others and the gifts of God?
What if we put on a new “pair of glasses” that helps us see everything from God’s point of view and turns our hearts and actions toward adding in those things that make it possible to enjoy others and God’s gifts as blessings that are meant to be cared for, celebrated and shared?
Biblical fasting is ordinarily a response to a grievous condition: to sin, evil, even death in our culture, our nation, our church, our world, and in our own lives. What if we follow the lesson on fasting Christ taught: Isaiah 58, 1-91
Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance …
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn and your wound shall quickly be healed.
… Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!
What if we walk along the Stations of the Cross in solidarity with Christ and all our suffering brothers and sisters in the world?
What if we keep vigil as an attentive openness to the work of God in our lives and others?
What if we would try harder to be kind than right?
What if we let it all go and allow everyone and everything to be just as they are?
What if we refuse to engage in self-defeating talk, limiting beliefs, complaining, criticism?
What if we embrace our real selves, open our mind to the new, follow our bliss, expect good?
What if we own and challenge our fears, excuses, addictions, attitudes, and presumptions?
What if we wake up a bit earlier each morning to spend the first of our day with God?
What if we skip a meal to spend the time on scripture or spiritual reading?
What if we scroll through social media in order to pray for the people and headlines we see?
What if we give up buying something we really don’t need and donate the money to charity?
What if we “gentle down” our voices, really listen, pause, and say only kind things?
What if we work on forgiveness and let go of anger or resentment?
What if we seek comfort in God through prayer and scripture?
What if we are intentional about focusing on God and others through prayer and action?
What if we take 20 minutes at the end of each day to commit to the practice of the examen or contemplative prayer?
What if every day during Lent we return to the Lord for a fresh start, a new opportunity to draw closer to God, or another chance to put our love for God into action.
When we love and commit ourselves to God, God fills us with love and grace. Every day God gives us two little words that help this happen – “Choose LIFE.” Every time we choose life, the blessings of life in Christ are increased: growing in a closer relationship with Christ, knowing the Spirit’s presence, and hearing God’s voice more clearly. Though the ashes are washed away, we still have much to ponder: What if … we find JOY?