It is Lent now – this season of prayer and fasting, of repentance, of conversion.
I’ve never been much of a Lent person, to be honest. Give me Advent, with the glowing light of candles, a pregnant Mary, the anticipation of a God-made-flesh. Give me Easter with jubilant “Alleluias” sung from the choir loft, with fragrant lilies and chrism oil, with white robes and “Glorias” all season long. But Lent? Season of scarcity, of repentance, of remembering my sinfulness? Can’t I just skip this part and move right along to the glorious light of Resurrection?
This year, though, I sense that I need Lent. Tired, weary, feeling disconnected from my faith, I crave this season that invites me, gently, to “return” in such an intentional way. To repent and believe – again. To remember that I am dust, and to dust I shall return.
In this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus is tempted in the desert, shown power and glory, lured by the pleasures of flesh. In Matthew’s text, this passage is situated before Jesus begins his public ministry. The text shows us what type of Messiah the Son of God is going to be. Tempted by Satan, Jesus stands firm in knowing who he is and what type of life he is to lead. He rejects that which stands in the way of what is ultimately life-giving, and in doing so, he gives us a model to follow.
Lent invites me to take pause, to ask myself – what lures me away from fullness of life? What am I confronted with, and how do I react? Quickly, I see my own (modern) temptations in the desert: to succumb to mindless scrolling through my phone, pulling me away from the holy mundane of everyday living; to fill my days with busyness, missing out on what is right in front of me. This year, I sense Lent inviting me back. It is inviting me to (re)learn to stop; to notice; to pay attention; to see.
Mary Oliver, in her poem “My Work is Loving the World,” writes:
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished…
And when I stop to “stand still and be astonished,” this is what I see:
Each day, more sunlight on both ends of my commute. Crocuses finding their way up through frozen ground, winter’s harshness no match for their persistent blooms. My 18-month-old who is my teacher in delight, who shouts with glee at the sight of her toes under a blanket each morning, who befriends dogs and neighbors and says “wowwwww” at life’s simple miracles: sunlight through a window, lights that turn on and off at the flick of a switch, city buses that carry people along…
As Lent begins, may we learn to stand still and be astonished. May we learn to see. And may we move – like Jesus – towards that which brings us most to life.