Our context for the season of Lent is the desert, driven there by the Spirit to join Jesus...and the beasts...and the angels.
The setting for these forty days is, of course, reminiscent of the great exodus from Egypt and the forty years wandering in the wilderness — the prototypical ‘thin place’ somewhere between who we've been and who we're becoming.
This is where we encounter ‘the wild things,’ who visit us in our vulnerability and who mirror back to us our own savage selves, free from the convention and conformity of our daily lives — free from captivity to the script of our own past — radically open to God's future, whose gateway is always in this present moment. And that's precisely where we find the angels, offering strength, courage, and hope for our initial steps into what Richard Rohr refers to as our 'second half of life' — available to all, but not seized by — the fertile 'now' in which we move beyond the how and what of life in order to discover, at last, the why.
In the broadest terms, our why has to do with offering our selves and our lives up for full participation in God's reconnecting of a disconnected world (re-link = re-ligare = re-ligion) — living as if John Donne's anthropology were true, that 'no man is an island, entire of himself' — that we are, indeed, 'a piece of the continent, a part of the main.'
And what better way to do so than to launch the season, and ground it entirely, in the giving and receiving of ash — prominently displayed at the forefront of our minds as the beginning and ending of our mortal lives — no escaping it, no denying it — it is the one physical reality that binds every life to one another: ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
It's by claiming our common origins and endings that we're able to recognize in a real way, at last, that what binds us together far surpasses what differentiates and divides us — and that what animates each of us is good and holy, worthy of our relentless care and concern — recognizing, as Thomas Merton noted, that ‘every other man is a piece of myself, for I am a part and a member of mankind.’ And that, additionally, ‘every Christian is part of my own body, because we are members of Christ.’
The season of Lent is our perennial spring — the lengthening days make provision for a new year's growth from the decay of what's been laid to rest. The ‘sin’ that divides us from God and each other is set aside, and we set our hearts back on God's love, where true joys are to be found.
We are of the same stuff: One Body, bound together by One Spirit, sharing in One Life, beloved and blessed by our One God. We are made and meant for one another, and our life's One meaning and purpose is bound up in the proclamation and practice of this fundamental Truth.
We are to repent and return — to reconcile and restore — to resist the forces of division and death — and, finally, to rest in the presence of God, who is making all things new — taming beasts with tender angels.
May your Lent be restful and restorative and may you find yourself surrounded by constant companions along the Way.
Grace & Peace,