Monday, February 22, 2010

Lenten Journey

Here we are at the beginning of our Lenten journey, as we travel with Jesus that long and lonely road to Jerusalem. As we make this annual pilgrimage, we are right there with Jesus’ disciples, who have been told by their master that he will “undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day of the week be raised” (Lk 9:22).

Like the disciples, many of us focus on, and feel that we must share, our Lord’s pain and suffering, at least symbolically through such things as giving up something of pleasure or taking on extra burdens; through avoiding all forms of temptation and repenting of our numerous sins. It is as if in such actions we are attempting to take on the ponderous, burdensome weight that the human Jesus undoubtedly carries as he travels that road to Jerusalem.

Yes, some of our Gospel readings for the season of Lent do have such themes as temptation (1st Sunday in Lent, Lk 4:1-13) and repentance (3rd Sunday in Lent, Lk 13:1-9). But on alternating Sundays, we also have readings that tell the other side of the Lenten story, that contain imagery of God desiring to gather his children together “as a hen gathers her brood under her wings” (2nd Sunday in Lent, Lk 13:31-35), and of the Prodigal Son (4th Sunday in Lent, Lk 15:1-3,11b-32). These stories convey messages of God’s unconditional love, of His endless compassion and mercy.

When this combination of Gospel lessons are woven together, we see a tapestry emerge that is much greater than the sum of its parts. We have an image of what Lent is really about. We see that we have an obligation to be obedient to God’s law, and for repentance when we fall short. But we also are the recipients of God’s boundless love and grace. And in this tapestry of the Lenten season, we also have an icon of the essence of what it means to be a Christian and to live a life faithful to our callings as disciples of Jesus Christ. For in reality, the Lenten journey is the Christian journey.

As we travel the road to Jerusalem with Jesus, all we can do is walk by his side. While the ponderous and burdensome weight he carries is ours, it is not ours to carry. It is his to carry. And all he asks, during this Lenten journey, as well as throughout our life journey, is that we be faithful companions along the way and share his love and compassion with others. He will take care of the rest. And that will be demonstrated in its fullness as, in about six weeks, we reach Jerusalem, as we helplessly watch the painful events that will happen there, and most certainly as we stand at the mouth of Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning, peek inside, and finding it empty, realize that his promise has been fulfilled, that the burden has indeed been lifted, and that we are the recipients of God’s unbounded grace and infinite love.

Blessed travels!

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