The Season of Lent has started with added spice this year.
One doesn’t have to mention that the world as we know it is changing, Europe is certainly changing and this country is also under a period of tremendous change.
In a way the current situation is preparing us as a nation for the future. As Jesus suffered his passion, that passion was of course a preparation for his death and resurrection.
All of us when we reflect on our past lives experience times of awakening. Of realisation. Of preparation for the future. An example I thought of earlier this morning was the day I started at boarding school. My father took me to school and I was left in one of the main cloisters – the north cloister – we said goodbye and he turned and walked out of the front door of the school, and I was left there alone.
The thought that ran through my mind was very simple. It was this. How would I feel if I never saw my father again? I wasn’t shocked, but I thought that if he died at that very moment, I would still be breathing, life would continue. It would be different not having him as a mentor, and at times a very humorous mentor, and that thought of sudden change, and what I would do with the sudden change and how I would copewith the sudden change gave me the confidence to cope with many of the problems that I would face during my life.
Life is a time of preparation, sometimes it is accompanied by suffering, other times by great joy.
From our Christian perspective, Jesus suffered and died, but the Resurrection gave his followers then, and still gives us today, an opportunity for tremendous rejoicing. There are many parallels in life which prepare us for the future, and those parallels give us the opportunity to change. Hopefully, for the better. My first day at boarding school set a tone for my life; it has given me a sense of the present - it has given me a sense of people’s worth; how much they matter to me. I say that simply because I often think of a parishioner who made a tremendous impression on the parish, her name was Beth Crathern. She did a tremendous amount of work, mostly unseen and yet her effect and influence remains with me to this day.
In his book ‘The Passion and the Cross’, Ronald Rolheiser writes ‘we cannot walk from self pampering to self sacrifice, from living in fear to acting in courage, and from cringing before the unknown, to taking a leap of faith without first, like Jesus in Gethsemane, readying ourselves through a certain agonia, that is, without undergoing a painful sweat that comes from facing what will be asked of us if we continue to live the truth’.
The parallel with that aspect of Christian faith is the same situation which is facing the nation. Those people who are suffering bereavement, will slowly become accustomed to separation. Those people who are now in splendid isolation are also slowly becoming accustomed to separation. When my father left me at school, I too had to become accustomed to separation.
Our Faith tells us that although separation may be a physical reality, it is never a spiritual reality because Faith has no barriers. When those we love die, they never die in our minds and hearts and in the same way that Jesus knew he would rise from the dead, we know that such glory will also be ours.
Lent is a time for looking forward with joy to a joy that gives temporary solace on this earth, but personal glory in eternal life. Our life is a jigsaw of many passions, and the full picture will only be seen when the last piece is put into place and we see the Glory of God.