One of the greatest joys of being your mother is watching you experience the milestones of your faith. You are now six and, for the first time, Lent is really on your radar and part of your consciousness. Last week, you received your first Ashes at school, and when I asked you, Luke, what you heard when you received them, you said, “Believe in the Gospel.” How those words rang joyfully in my ears!
I have to confess that my own consciousness of the deeper significance of the Lenten season was a little shaky coming into adulthood. While I have learned and embraced the themes of prayer, almsgiving and fasting in recent years, I have wondered to myself, what would I want you to know about Lent a little sooner than I did in my own faith journey, and specifically, what it means in the larger scheme of your lives as Catholics? After all, it is in so many ways the cornerstone of our faith. So, here are my own three lessons for you for when you are a little older, as I reflect on the significance of the Lenten season.
First, life is not without sacrifice for us or others. While it is perhaps easy for doubters to mock giving up candy or other modern niceties for Lent as a profound theological statement, it is a simple act to symbolize the profound recognition that we face larger crosses to bear in our lives. We offer these minor sacrifices during the Lenten season in order to more profoundly contemplate Jesus’ sacrifice and experience on the Cross, and how we might model that strength, selflessness, and sense of purpose in our own lives. While we can and should reflect on this throughout the year, and particularly in times of trouble, Lent offers us the space to tangibly commemorate Christ’s journey.
Second, redemption is always available, whether it is a better tomorrow or life everlasting. The Lenten season ends in the most life-affirming act in the history of humankind, and yet we must walk with Jesus through the desert of hunger, betrayal, and extraordinary pain and loss to get there. It is incredibly reassuring to journey with Christ over the 40 days through both the good and bad of his human experience, knowing that we can be saved each and every day in both the smallest and biggest ways. What an extraordinary gift that keeps on giving.
Third, gratitude is essential. Over the course of 40 days, we are lead to the gift of salvation, reason enough to be grateful. And we are reminded through acts of almsgiving that empathy for others is in many ways the mother of gratitude. Yet, I would suggest that the call to gratitude is even greater and goes beyond the parameters of the Lenten season. Or as St. Paul said, “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances, give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Lent reminds us to express gratitude for the goodness and glory in our lives, manifest in the Resurrection. But it also calls us to be grateful for the imperfections, too, because our lives with their worldly sacrifices are reconciled by His perfect sacrifice. Because of the Cross – not in spite of the Cross – we are saved. Thanks be to God.
Love always, Mommy
Copyright 2013 Leslie Rohrbacker