As we approach the season of Lent, I am reminded of my childhood Lenten experiences. I remember the family discussions that resulted in us either deciding or being told what we were going to give up for Lent.
It was usually a blanket ban on all sweets, and I remember being conscious, day after day, of having to wait, of the empty little space that the small pleasure normally occupied. I remember sneaking spoonfuls from the sugar bowl and then feeling guilty because I actually did want to be a saint and to love God with my whole heart.
That small empty space is a reminder of what this time is for; it is a companion that keeps the focus on why we begin the Lenten journey, what our destination is and what we need to accomplish in order to get there. The readings this first Sunday of Lent speak to that.
'Make me know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.'
Noah, his family, all living creatures, and the whole of creation had just endured 40 days of rain. God had brought this remnant through to dry land and a time to build again.
They had begun that journey, through the water, because of the need for purification from the evil that had overcome all of creation and they had arrived at a place of deeper relationship with God, a time to receive more completely the inheritance that God had planned from the beginning.
Our 40 days of Lent is prefigured both by the flood and by the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert, tempted by Satan and served by the angels.
Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert, not because he needed to be purified, but as preparation for his public ministry. Jesus' first words in Mark's Gospel, calling the people to repent and believe the good news of the kingdom of God, follow this time.
Each of us have a particular role to play in God's kingdom and there is work to be done in our lives, our hearts and minds to both purify us and prepare us to live that mission more completely and more surrendered to the Spirit at work through us.
Lent is the time that we set aside some of the rest of life in order to be more attentive to our response to God's invitation. That small space created by prayer, fasting and almsgiving helps us as we try again to get it right.
I still want to be a saint and to love God with my whole heart. But I know that there is more to be accomplished in me as I am purified and prepared. This Lent, I want both to come to greater repentance and commitment and to remember what it is that I am preparing for.
These 40 days are leading me, like Noah, to greater union with God, to living more fully the covenant of love. These 40 days are to prepare for a fuller embrace of the mission God has entrusted to me.
(Kathleen Giffin firstname.lastname@example.org)