There’s an austere familiarity about Lent. We’ve experienced it for years and years. And yet, no two Lents have been identical for us. This year, once again, we are at a new place. We’ve had experiences during the last year that we’ve never had before. As this year unfolds, so will newness. So Lent 2016 can be fresh and surprisingly appealing to us.
Lent is most especially a time of preparation to welcome the Risen One, who lives with us today in our complex world. Tools that help us prepare for Easter are traditionally prayer, fasting and almsgiving. With these, we clean the interior places where the really important movements of our lives take place. Tie these tools in with Pope Francis’ call for us to live a Year of Mercy, and we already have a full plate.
The human quality that will sustain us during Lent, Easter and beyond is trust…trust that the grace will be given, trust that we will have the strength and generosity we need to be Christ-like in our daily Lenten efforts and even trusting people moving in the same direction as we are.
Trust is a confidence that someone else is reliable. Trust means I can be secure in going forward, because I am being held up, by others, not the very least of whom is God. Yesterday I was finishing laps at the Webster Y and heading toward the shallow end of the pool. In a nearby lane, a boy no more than three was moving through the water, bubble on his back, a noodle under his arms. His grandmother led him out deeper and deeper. This little guy was content, secure and happy. He trusted that grandma would give him all he needed to be at home in the water. This child was learning who to trust. Adults have to learn these things as well. Who is trustworthy enough to lead us out deeper and deeper?
Developing trust, for the Christian, takes discipline, faith and energy. It means living out the belief that the Risen Jesus is faithful to His promises. Trust is faith under pressure. There’s no such thing as a little bit of trust. We either trust or we don’t.
“Do not trust in princes” we read in Psalm 146.3. We need to be wise enough not to trust in a wide variety of people and things, from hawkers to surefire schemes to preachers who tell us that God is vengeful and that we are fundamentally evil. How different these devious purveyors of life are from Jesus who was once asked to cure two blind men. “Do you believe I can do this?” Jesus asked. In other words, “Do you trust that I can do this?” “Of course, you can,” the blind men said. In others words: “We believe you can. We trust you can”(Matthew 9.27-31). And Jesus did. Jesus is trustworthy beyond all that we can expect.
Corrie Ten Boom, the Dutch Christian imprisoned for her efforts with her family to save many Jews from the Holocaust, wrote of God’s place in her work: “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
Learning trust in a known God as we do the work of Lent can make a difference during the rest of the year. In the Lenten process, we learn to know the known God even more. Dare I say it? Happy Lent.
~ Sister Joan Sobala