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Bishop’s Lenten Reflection

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness
to be tempted by the devil” (
Matthew 4:1)
 “Tend the Soul”

Sister Joan Chittister tells the story of two Buddhist monks walking down a muddy, rain-soaked road on the way back to their monastery after a morning of begging.  They saw a beautiful young girl standing beside a large deep puddle unable to get across without ruining her clothes.  The first monk, seeing the situation, offered to carry the girl to the other side, though monks had nothing whatsoever to do with women.  The second monk was astonished by the act but said nothing about it for hours.  Finally, at the end of the day, he said to his companion, “I want to talk to you about that girl”. And the first monk said, “Dear brother, are you still carrying that girl? I put her down hours ago”.

One of the moral insights of this story is that so many good and faithful Christians are entrapped by the stuff of legalese, that is what we should or should not do according to acceptable norms or custom in deference to what is right and a proper response in the prevailing context.  How often have we troubled ourselves by refusing to let go of issues, and/or deeds others have done against us?  It often seems fashionable to dwell on the inessentials of life as a classic recipe for distraction from the great themes of our lives. For many the refusal to let go could be viewed as their crutch or handrail to justify their reason to prolong the enmity or discontent. I know of so many across the vineyard of God’s world who are so reluctant to let go and give healing a chance; give grace space to breathe new life into an old and antiquated problem.

Jesus’ first act after baptism was to wrestle with his inner self; to figure out the direction of his life his Father in heaven was calling him to incarnate. To obtain a deeper sense of this call, he chose to enter self-isolation, self-reflection, self-critique, and self-abandonment of what John of the Cross would later term in his own spiritual awakening, “Dark Night of the Soul.”

Similarly, Lent offers an opportunity to wrestle with our personal call, to distinguish from what may be the essentially doable and life-giving activity of life from the peripherally unproductive. It permits us to trim and strip away the fault lines in our lives so that we can experience the fullness of God’s breath flowing through our soul.  To focus on those aspects that are more likely to breathe life into our body, as against casting the shadow of death over the dynamic life God has given us to enjoy. The Diocese of Easton enters into this ‘space’ as it continues its pilgrimage or holy journey toward reimagination, renewal, resurrection and sustainability.

It is obvious from looking at life and knowing whose it is, that it is God’s, we can relax and unburden the baggage we find ourselves carrying unnecessarily; and claim our place in the universe. Ironically, when we do that we are more likely to value the place of others.

One tract we can focus on this season is the acknowledgement of the real danger hatred presents. Hate is a potent and lethal force in the disruption of healthy relationships and is an affront to the soul’s peaceable quest.  Hate is death-dealing because it destroys the love that is the life of the soul and the core of human relationship. As someone once said, “hatred like acid corrodes the container it is carried in”.

By investing additional time in increasing the discipline expected for keeping a holy Lent, we could end up lessening the burden of hatred by experiencing the sweet presence of the eternal gift of love.  Love is the opposite of hate and possesses the virtue of pushing us into the direction of loving even our fiercest enemy.  This compulsion to love is driven by a desire to draw closer to God, who is love and first loved us by sending his son Jesus to die for us.  Love is the best and most pristine way of tending the soul simply because it’s through love that the soul communes with God. This desire to love as God loves finds incompatibility with hatred and urges us closer to finding community with those we disagree with enough to hate.  Love draws us closer towards the beloved and gives us sufficient reason to value them for the good that they are.  Remember God loves us despite all our brokenness! And strangely, despite our best efforts to push God aside he keeps thundering back in our direction as demonstrated at the resurrection. God is our relentless lover and trust me, give God the glory today for that stamina to maintain unequivocal love for you and me. As I said in one of my Sunday sermons, “with Jesus we are already winners in the race toward eternal glorification”.

Let us use Lent to control our hatred even to the extent of being transformed into love.  I am absolutely convinced that there isn’t a wrong someone has done to you that is sufficiently strong or compelling to dispel the love God has shown demonstrated in Jesus words from the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

“Almighty God whose Son was revealed in majesty before he suffered
death upon the cross, give us faith to perceive his glory, that being strengthened
by his grace we may be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory, who lives
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.” Amen!!

May this Lenten Season reassure us that Jesus experienced the very physical, spiritual, and emotional conditions that we do! As such be comforted, draw strength and inspiration from our Lord and Savior, our model and pattern as we live into the Lenten discipline.

May we strive diligently for a Holy Lent!

Every blessing and love!

Lent 2024