Our televisions have been filled with the images of the Middle East and North Africa. Out of the desert, our consciousness has been raised to the plight of millions of people in our world who still live in the shadow of tyranny, oppression, and unjust social structures. Out of the desert, we have seen global response to the cries of peoples and nations – memories of past regimes, reminders of the hell that we humans can put each other through.
Out of the desert, we come to Lent. We might be entering these days, beginning on Ash Wednesday, to see the little things that we can give up, to do the things that we should be doing, saying extra prayers for this and that….. But Lent isn’t about getting away from the desert, but in fact, Lent is precisely about plunging ourselves into the heat of the desert!
Our Lenten journey is meant to call us deeper into our hearts to see what is there. What is there? Are the building blocks that make for world news a part of your life? Hatred, anger, bitterness? Greed, envy and pride? Are you hungering for change for your life, and the life of others around you, who need the Good News proclaimed to you anew?
Lent is an opportunity for change – not only in our own life, and in the life of the Church, but for the renewal and hope for all humanity – of different races and creeds – of different languages and cultures. We are all members of this human family with Christ as its head. We enter into this Lenten Desert, not to punish ourselves or others, but to purify and renew ourselves.
Jesus, before his own ministry began, went into the heart of the desert, to understand himself, the reality of temptation, the need to focus on God, and to be called out of that desert into action. Jesus went in to the heat of the desert, precisely to call us out, calling us to be the change that we want to see – proclaiming justice and building the kingdom of God on earth.
Lent doesn’t have to mean, nor should it mean, this simple giving up of things, “just because” you have to. Our sacrifices made during Lent are meant to bring us towards joy; the “Joy” of freedom and renewal through the power of Christ’s Resurrection and our Redemption. But in order to appreciate and enter deeply into the mystery and experience of Resurrection, we must first journey through the 40 days in the desert of Lent.
Author Marilyn Gustin wrote a book for Liguori Publications entitled, “Choosing Joy for Lent”. She outlined the need that we have to seek out our transformation through the seeking out joy in life. We are invited to open ourselves to the power of the Holy Spirit through six methods: detachment, surrender, contentment, noninjury, discipline, and contemplation. Simple disciplines that help all of us to become renewed, and to be made right before ourselves, one another, and before God. If only we all could enter this Lenten Journey together as a human family. What a difference that can be made, one person at a time.
- Detachment , or as St. Alphonsus said, “Distacco” means a letting go. It is the opposite of attachment. When we cling to things in life beyond their normal significance, then they possess us. Detachment is an invitation to see that we need to focus our attachment elsewhere.
- Surrender opens our hearts and our hands to let go of our attachments, but also to be in a position to receive. Receive what? That depends on how open we allow our hearts and hands to be to God’s love and grace.
- Finding contentment means to find peace and delight everywhere. You notice simple and beautiful things in life when you are not hampered with “things”.
- Non-injury is the effort to do no harm. Simple as that.
- Discipline is the finding of inner strength to achieve a goal. It requires practice and freedom of heart to take on a discipline. We discipline ourselves always toward becoming better in life.
- Contemplation is a centering of our whole being on God, and entering the mystery and wonder of God’s creation.
So look for ways this Lent that you might deepen your prayer, your reflection, and your quest to find Joy in the midst of the quiet desert of your heart. Through scripture, meditation, and journaling, find opportunities to allow your openness to be an invitation for God’s love and God’s joy to find a home in you, so that you may know richly, the joy of the resurrection in your life.
“Be the change you want to see in the world” Mahatma Gandhi
Practical Ideas to help you enter into this holy season:
- Create a simple prayer space: purple cloth, candle, cross, sand, stones, nails.
- Use a nail as a meditation piece during the season of Lent, then use it as part of your prayer on Good Friday.
- Incorporate a reflection on the Way of the Cross into your prayer time. Perhaps attend a parish Way of the Cross service.
- Save your extra pocket change during the season, and then donate it to Development and Peace, or Share Lent.
- Spend time in prayer each day with the daily readings for Mass.
- Place newspaper clippings of world conflicts and local needs in your pocket to pray for the need, or add the clippings to the prayer space in your room your home.
- And of course, pray for the people of the Middle East and North Africa, who call the desert their home. Pray for God’s justice and change that leads to joy.
- Celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
- Attend all the celebrations of the Easter Triduum.