Yesterday, my cousin and I read together an Ash Wednesday meditation written by Sarah Parsons. In it, she writes that Lent begins in the wilderness and that for the next 40 days we must go alone into a wild place and become fiercely honest with ourselves in order to see the things we would rather not see about ourselves. The Psalmist pleads with God to create a new heart within. Perhaps that will be what this Lent is about for me.
In today’s first reading from Deuteronomy 30, the Lord sets before us life and death, blessing and curse, offering us the opportunity to choose life so that we may live while we love God and hold fast to the teachings and commandments. The Responsorial Psalm is blessed are they who hope in the Lord. The Gospel is from Luke 9: 22-25 in which Jesus tells his disciples that the Son of Man must suffer greatly. Going into a wild place for me this Lent means looking at some dark patches with overgrown weeds. I want to be able to get my garden ready for the seeds that will be planted this Lent. I want to choose life over death regarding some of my daily choices. I want to be one of those who are blessed because they hope in the Lord. I want to learn from Jesus how to suffer with grace.
We all have in our minds images of people living with cancer. Oftentimes the stereotypical visual is a bald, skeletal figure with sunken eyes and in great pain. Suffering is evident. However, this is not the route for all people who die of cancer. Nonetheless , whichever way I must carry my cross, I will carry on with Jesus beside me. The thought of suffering greatly is overwhelming for me and so I choose to stay in each moment, embracing life as it presents itself to me now. The Buddhists would say that suffering is a mental exercise and not a physical one. Scripture concurs with this in many verses, suggesting that it is best to not worry about tomorrow. This Lent I will not jump ahead but look at the work that needs yet to be done.
There are some wild places best to avoid and some wild beasts that should not be fed. Pride, fear, ego, temptation, and doubt may lead us unnecessarily to the edge of cliffs. These are not the wild places with which I need to wrestle. Those beasts are hungry and their fearsome growl distracts from the real work of growth that does not allow such animals to return when the core work is completed.
The wild place that I enter this Lent is based on the present moment. The wilderness I enter is one that needs my attention now. I must go alone and face the terrors of the night. I must confront the demons that need to be banished from my life–judgement, unforgiveness, resentment, hard-heartedness, and hatred. This is the hard work of Lent that I choose in order that I may have life to the fullest in my remaining days. Jesus will be there in the desert, never far from my heart and mind. He will be the one to show me my sin history and help me to make the changes that I need so that I may live in freedom.
I take a deep breath. I exhale. I adjust my glasses so that I may see clearly. I pray that I might be fiercely honest. I place my hope in the Lord. I ask for the Trinity to accompany me and begin. Let the digging be deep and the good seeds be sown.
What is in the wild place that you must enter with fierce honesty?
What demons need to be banished from your life this Lent?
Option-Maker, you always give us choices. These 40 days I choose life. I long to dig out that which chokes me and does not allow me to grow beautifully. The task is not an easy one, with so many distractions and so many beasts calling for attention. Keep my eyes on you alone, Holy One, in this wild place. My hope is in you. Give me eyes to see what needs to be redeemed within me so that I may be free of all that holds me back from the goodness that you created me for. Create within me a holy new heart. Amen.