As a Canadian living in a snow-belt area the desert image often linked to Lent does not seem to fit the view outside my window. Although the snow banks and icy roads are not found in your typical desert, the endless grey days and frigid temperatures do convey an environment that is harsh like a desert. Regardless of the landscape, Lent has arrived.
Lent is our yearly retreat in preparation for Easter. The season of Lent has two major purposes: it recalls or prepares for baptism, and emphasizes a spirit of penance. The emphasis on a spirit of penance assists us in preparing to renew our baptismal promises. For those who will be baptized at the Easter Vigil the spirit of penance is to assist them in preparing for their baptism.
For more than 30 years I have walked through Lent beside those who are preparing to celebrate baptism, confirmation and eucharist at the Easter Vigil. I know it is a privilege to walk with the elect and it means the focus on preparing for baptism and our unity at the eucharistic table shapes my lenten retreat.
The Gospel on the second Sunday is always the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus. This account is filled with an image greater than words can describe. This Gospel enlightens our mind and hearts, reminding us that we are to listen to God’s beloved Son. Lent is about deepening our ability to listen to God’s voice in our life. When we are able to listen and respond to God’s voice, our preparation for the Easter season will be deepened.
During Year B the first reading is the account of Abraham and Isaac. Although the story is familiar it can still capture our attention. Hearing the story of God calling Abraham to sacrifice his son can raise questions about who God is and why God would call for this type of action. Although these thoughts about God may seem reasonable, perhaps we need to hear the story with new ears and to ponder Abraham’s trust in God.
Abraham trusted God to provide and it seems he trusted God beyond what we would call reasonable. As a parent I cannot fathom Abraham’s trust. We know Abraham’s relationship and trust in God made him father of Israel with descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sand on the seashore (Genesis 22:17).
In the second reading St. Paul reminds us that nothing, not even hardship, distress, persecution and peril will separate us from the love of Christ. St. Paul tells us that we are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us. I find the words of St. Paul comforting and yet, when I cannot trust my concerns and cares to God, when I cannot trust that God will provide, I can begin to feel and act as though everyone is against me. When my trust in God slips, I feel separated from the love of Christ.
Lent is a time to call on the Holy Spirit to assist us in naming and walking away from all that keeps us from living in union with God. Perhaps many of the habits, thoughts and distractions that keep us from living in union with God were embraced by us because we do not or did not trust God to provide.
Abraham trusted God to always provide. In my own life this type of trust can bring peace or, on days when doubt is more attractive, I replace trust with my own plan and worry can set it. I know Lent is the time to abstain from all that keeps me away from God so that I may renew my baptismal promises with integrity and joy. Perhaps this Lent God is calling me to let go of my own plans and to trust that God does provide.
Peter wanted to stay on the mountain with our transfigured Lord. I imagine each of us would like to stay on the mountain, to remain in the moment when it is easy to trust our God. Perhaps Peter wanted to hold on to the moment and simply be with the Lord. We know what happened: they came down from the mountain and in the not too distant future Peter turned away and denied Jesus.
In this season of Lent we are called to remember who God is, to remember that we rejected sin and professed our belief so that we can live in freedom. To reject sin and to profess our belief, we need to trust God. We need to believe in the depth of our beings that God will always provide. May we learn to trust our God and let go of all that keeps us from living in freedom as God’s children.
Ecker, a parish catechist and freelance writer, speaker and facilitator lives in Barrie, Ont. For over 35 years she has presented and led times of formation on catechetical and liturgical topics throughout Canada. She is married, a parent and grandparent Reach her at email@example.com