Friday, February 21, 2020

The Work of Lent

Dear Friends,

I don’t know if you realize it, but for the last several weeks, our Gospel passages have been from the Sermon on the Mount as given to us by Matthew. Some theologians and spiritual writers describe the Sermon on the Mount as containing the hard sayings of Jesus and his ethical demands. Without being told, we know that to follow Jesus is not a sentimental journey, a self-satisfying trek through life. It is work. It requires that we recognize ourselves as sinners, and go on to acquire positive ways to walk away from sin and walk in the steps of the Holy One.

The “holy smudge,” which we accept on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday and wear all day long, is a sign off conviction, a badge of commitment, and a proclamation to all who come our way that we are followers of the Risen and Living Holy One who did not shun death to give us life. In 2019, the CNN talk show host Chris Cuomo appeared on his nightly program bearing the holy smudge for the world to see. Wearing our own holy smudge, let’s watch to see if he repeats the practice this year.

The work of Lent is continual transformation. We discern and try to do God’s will. We become salt, light and blessedness for others by being non-violent, by finding creative ways to change our world for the good, by practicing justice as well as compassion – all the things the Sermon on the Mount tells us to do.

What are some of the ways we can effect positive lasting change this Lent?
  • By increasing our capacity to love. What is our capacity anyway? As much as a thimble, a cup, a gallon, the sea can hold?
  • By giving over our need to control
  • By clinging less to what we own or who/what we allow to own us
  • By activating the treasures that faith and the Church can offer

This Lent, what will it take on our part to change in a positive way that lasts?
  • Choose one thing. Not everything, but one small thing to begin.
  • Be willing to work at it. Be attentive. Practice the change daily. Review it nightly.
  • Improve on the idea when it seems right to do so.
  • Be willing to start over again if need be. Don’t let one failure throw you off course.
  • Wear prayer as you do your skin.
  • Don’t be alone in the process. Celebrate small steps with the community of faith.

The spiritual work of Lent is arduous, but we need not fear or hesitate as we drink in God’s inspiration and energy to become a new creation. God will, indeed, lead, beckon and accompany us along the way. We are on our way!

~Sister Joan Sobala