Lent is a great season where we are called to fasting, almsgiving and prayer. While our motivations may vary from weight loss to genuine spiritual journeying, this is a season where we take time to stop and take stock of our lives. What’s there? What’s there that shouldn’t be there? Are there things in my life that I need to change, to move around, to let go of? Are there obstacles in the way of my relationship with Jesus and with the world around me? We might fast from our cars when we can, or look at how much food, clothes and energy we consume. How are our recycling habits? We might pledge to read “Laudato Si”, Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, during Lent, and perhaps to ask a few friends to join us.
Whatever you decide to do, embrace this very special time. In the Gospel we are given encouragement as we read that Jesus is being led by the Spirit into the wilderness. The wilderness is not a place to be feared: it can be a place of transformation; a place where God is ultimately in control. We might encounter our demons and temptations there, but that is part of the journey. As with all things, we will get out of Lent what we put in. The more we put in, the greater the celebration on Easter Sunday morning.
Marilyn McEntyre is professor of literature and medical humanities at UC Berkeley. In her book Word for Word she writes about a course she teaches on “contemplative reading”:
I asked students to listen to short musical pieces and pay attention to the ‘interior space’ they opened up. Where did the music take them? I asked. How might they describe the architecture or landscape of that interior space? To do this exercise, they needed to appropriate certain kinds of music as tools for guided meditation. It yielded surprising and gratifying moments of sharing: we were led into conversations that were no longer simply ‘academic’ but those of pilgrims on an inward path.”
A therapist I worked with years ago frequently nudged me to ‘Go to the place in you that knows . . . ’ His advice helped me return to my own sacred inner space – the ‘room’ where I meet God in prayer, where I receive guidance, where I am restored by deep quiet, where I may be visited by divine Presence.
Let that be our goal this Lent: to rediscover that “interior space” where we can be totally honest with ourselves and with God, to reconnect to that place in our souls that “knows,” to transform the “ashes” of our lives into something whole and life-giving. Our journey to Easter with Christ over the next 40 days is a pilgrimage within our hearts to find again the Spirit of God dwelling there.
May we let God lead the way this Lent, illuminating the safe path through the treacherous terrain and the dark unknowns we all must negotiate to our final destination: the dwelling place of God.