I was listening to the Brendan O’Connor Show last weekend on the radio and at one stage the host pointed out that we have nothing to look forward to during these long days while Covid continues to influence all the decisions about how we live our lives. He was echoing some of the viewpoints which had come in from the listeners.
I reflected on how this contrasts with what the Church was engaged in last week preparing to observe the season of Lent, that period of time beginning on Ash Wednesday and culminating in Easter Sunday, the greatest event in the Church’s Calendar. This of course is very much a time of looking forward’ and as such can give us all hope in this most difficult of times, which we have been plunged into against our wills, and with no former experience of many of the difficulties, we have had to face.
Missing the Ashes
Indeed we may feel that our lives up until now have been one long Lent because we have had to make so many sacrifices. However with the roll-out of the vaccines, we are in a new phase of hope and perhaps it is this Lent more than any before which illustrates the need for belief in a Resurrection and a world which will rise again, like the Phoenix from the ashes.
Most of us of course missed out on the ashes this year but one man who did not was President Joe Biden. On a Sky News report, the announcers were baffled as to the dark matter on his forehead, “What’s happened to his head?” shrieked one and speculated if it were a bruise. Apparently, he was in Canada and they thought perhaps he might have had a fall! Eventually, the same reporter, a Catholic, but a bad one as she admitted herself, pointed out that it was the ashes (or more likely someone whispered it into her earpiece!). These ashes remind us that Christ died for us all and everyone, whether president or a poor man is destined to die.
The message of Lent is unchanged; repent and believe in the Gospel. To repent literally means to think again, to take an honest look at your life. Not counting the Sundays there are forty days between Ash Wednesday and the celebration of Easter Sunday when we renew our Baptismal promises, rejecting the lies of Satan and renewing our commitment to follow in the way of Christ.
The Journey towards the Light
This is a lovely time of the year because the evenings are becoming brighter and the daffodils remind us of the sunshine which is just behind the clouds. As we journey through the darkness of Lent we always have the joy of Easter Sunday in our sights. This Easter the sense of embracing the light is needed more than ever. Our suffering truly mirrors that of Jesus, his temptations in the wilderness, and all his experiences of rejection as well as the desertion by those who had followed him so closely.
In considering the dearth of Jesus, it is important for us to remember that this was God who chose to die for us so that he could lead us into a whole new possibility of living. On a human level, the death of Jesus was a disaster while with the eyes and the logic of God it was eternally triumphant. The death of Jesus opened the gates of Heaven for God’s people. It is significant that, just as he died, the graves were opened, the dead arose and appeared to many, and the veil of the Temple was rent in two.
On Easter Sunday the victory of Jesus reverberates for all eternity; this is the day we have waited for since the birth of a little baby in a stable at Bethlehem. We often forget that Easter is a feast of even greater significance than Christmas. This is partly because of all the extra festivities associated with December 25th, which can distract us so easily and inevitably from the real meaning of the event.
At Easter, there are few if any presents, no trees or decorated streets and gardens; no Santas shinning up the chimneys, and less emphasis on eating, drinking, and partying in general. Easter Sunday is a day rooted in one essential truth – an empty tomb. It is truly the day that gives hope but unlike the reality of gifts beneath the Christmas tree, this hope has to be believed in, searched for, and reflected upon. These days of Lent offer us an ideal opportunity to do just that.
Grant, Almighty God, through the yearly observances of holy Lent, that we may grow in our understanding of the riches hidden in Christ and by worthy conduct pursue their efforts. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen
Written by Marie – Therese Cryan