A Different Kinda Desert
Throughout this Lenten Season, one like no other, I found myself mumbling the same lament over and over and over again. Perhaps there are a few intrepid souls out there who are reading this who can commiserate:
Boy did I choose the wrong Lent to give up alcohol.
My time spent in the Lenten desert has at times resembled Bud and Lou’s in their comedic romp “Abbott & Costello joint the Foreign Legion.”
Yes, the Coronavirus has upended the lives and lifestyles of people all over the planet. Rich or poor, citizens or migrants, corporations or small businesses, temples or churches, male or female. No one has been spared. Say an extra prayer for the control freak(s) in your life; this must be particularly difficult for them as they learn a lesson learned by the armies of reformed control freaks that came before them: You’re not in control of virtually nothing. Your response to Jesus’ act on the cross however is one of the few things you do possess ownership of and control over.
On my mind today of course is the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection at the Easter Vigil Service, the most solemn and dramatic liturgy of the year. This is the time when those who have been preparing to enter into the fullness and richness of the Catholic Church celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation. This year they will have to wait until we can all come together. Jesus gave his life on Good Friday so that we could have a new beginning. For many, journeying into the Sacramental Life triggers the first step on this divine voyage, this new beginning. May those who yearn to enter into this full communion take steps to continue to grow in their desire to enter into this bond. That would be their wisest and best response.
The Easter message is a call to unadulterated joy, a joy that transcends circumstance. It is indeed pandemic proof. “We are the Easter people and ‘Hallelujah’ is our song” were the words of the great Saint John Paul II. Christ is risen. As the Easter people we are called to accept the Gospel, to work with it, not against it. In doing so we will be freed from the shackles of sin and death. Nothing can harm the one who has God on their side. The Bible tells us that God created human nature, and that it was good. But human nature without the reinvigorating grace of God is faulty. Not that the world we live in or the people we live with are necessarily bad, but the world and the people in it are not fulfilled without the goodness of God, who sent His Son that we might be saved.
The Easter message is proof positive that when people of good will give God a chance, Jesus will raise them up . . .He can raise us up right now, give us new life, help us to fight the good fight, make us whole, and fill us with joy, deep and penetrating joy .Joy in the simple signs of life that we so often sadly take for granted. The joy of rising in the morning to face a new day. The precious gift of loyal friends. The graceful lives of generous and compassionate people reaching out to those in need. The remarkable heroism of care-givers all over the world risking their lives so others might live, fighting a fight they did not pick against an enemy they can not see and do not fully understand. Suddenly, in a world turned upside down, these heroes have leapfrogged the Taylor Swift concert, the Packer Game and whatever repackaged, recycled stories that Hollywood had planned to trot out in the days and months ahead in order of importance. How great it would be if our perspective maintained its accuracy when this is all over. .
Yes, this was a different kinda desert that we the faithful were asked to traverse this Lenten Season. Yet we know that “all things happen for the greater glory of God for those who place their trust in him.” (Romans 8:28). For those of you who missed attending daily mass, know that there were many who returned to the practice of daily mass by way of live streaming. Many of those who did so had fallen away from the church. Perhaps this will be the impetus that brings them back, back to reassume their role as vibrant members of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Catholic Church.
“Love one another, as I have loved you.” This is the new commandment, our new call to action. May the Easter message resound throughout the deserts, the mountains, the towns, cities and countryside. He is risen.