Tag Archives: lent

Tent in Cayonlands
Book, Faith, Lent, Spirituality, Transformation
1

Pitching a Tent

I originally wrote this post three years ago, shortly after having lost a dear friend to breast cancer.  Of course, in the 3-year cycle of readings, Luke’s account of the Transfiguration is (once again) the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent. This reflection also makes its way into the first chapter of Continuing the Journey (which is now available in both English and Spanish, with a Leaders Guide–also in both English and Spanish… but I digress).

From February 2013…

My dear friend Amalour passed away last week.  And in my grief, I am still having a difficult time paying attention to almost everything.  So it  didn’t come as any surprise when I had a hard time following the homily today at mass.  The Gospel on the Second Sunday of Lent is the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28:-36).

Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white.  And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.  Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.  As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  But he did not know what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.  Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.

Years ago (before kids), I facilitated a faith sharing group at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Maryland, and one of the women explained how the story of the Transfiguration was one of her favorites because it offered a glimpse of Jesus Christ glorified.  I heard her words and felt moved by her passion, but that’s not how the story struck me.

Personally, I find myself identifying with Peter, James, and John.  Like them, I would have been happy to follow Jesus up a mountain.  Like them, I would have probably been overcome by sleep.  Even before kids.  And like them, I would probably been so awestruck, I would have been happy to  to pitch a tent.

Actually, I would have been happy to have my husband pitch the tent while I set up camp.

IMG_1690

At the Vigil service for Amalour’s funeral, her husband Brian offered one of the most moving eulogies I have ever heard.  Brian talked about Amalour’s unending quest for improvement.  In their marriage–in their lives–they’d do the work and come to a plateau.  It was a nice plateau, on which Brian was ready to pitch a tent and enjoy the view.  And Amalour would say no; we’re not there yet.  We can do better than this.  There’s more to see; there’s more to do.  Again, and again, and again in their lives, Amalour was always striving for something more… for something better… in all the ways that mattered.

I am a do-er.  I’d like to think of myself as someone who walked alongside Amalour on the path of growth.  In many ways, I know I have.  But I also know one of my weaknesses is doing too much. I have been guilty of distracting myself from the real, true, important things in life with busyness… filling my days with so much stuff that I don’t have time to think.  When I’m in this mindset, pitching a tent and enjoying the view sounds like a GREAT idea!  In fact, I’ll even busy myself with setting up camp.

Thing is, life is more of a journey than a sit-down and watch (or in my case, get everything ready to sit down and watch).  And sometimes that journey is hard.  Very hard.

I can imagine that witnessing the Transfiguration was to be a gift to inspire Peter, James, and John for the journey that lay before them.  It was not meant to be the end of the journey… or even a break from the journey.

So the challenge, I suppose, is to take those moments of grace, peace, hope, and light and allow them to inspire us along the path.  To avoid the temptation to pitch a tent as though that moment was the end-all-be-all.  To avoid the temptation to busy ourselves with setting up camp instead of doing the real work of journeying through life.


Tent in Canyonlands by [Rob Lee]https://www.flickr.com/photos/roblee) licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

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Three Crosses and Silhoutted Person in Prayer at Sunrise
Conversion, Lent, Metanoia
3

Lent: Are You Giving Up or Taking Up?

So it’s lent.  The question used to be: What are you giving up for lent?  Now, people are asking: What are you going to do for lent?  Instead of “giving something up,” many suggest we “take something up.”

The thing is that both of these questions can be good ones, and in both cases, our responses can miss the point.

The term “lent” comes from a word meaning “spring” or “springtime.”  In the south, the whole of spring is a beautiful season of warmth, light, and growth.  In the north, it’s often drab and dreary: muddy, cold, and barren trees well into early May.  Many a blizzard has fallen after March 20th.

Regardless of where you live, the idea of spring is the season of rebirth, promise, and hope.  Spring is when we see nature go from death-to-new-life.

Lent is about that death-to-new life transformation of springtime.  Like Jesus’ time in the desert, it is a 40 day spiritual journey.

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Lord-Business
Conversion, Metanoia, Suffering
1

You Don’t Have to be the Bad Guy

With two Lego-loving boys in the house, there was little doubt that we would see The Lego Movie.  The previews looked cute, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much of the movie I genuinely liked.  It was fun, funny, and playful, and you can’t leave the theatre without singing “Everything is Awesome!”

There’s one scene that struck upon a deep theological truth.  Short of being a spoiler alert for those who haven’t yet seen it, I’ll simply say that in the battle between good and evil, good wins.  It’s not just that good wins, but what happens next.  Tucked in to the last moments of the movie is a conversion story, where the protagonist (Emmett) tells the antagonist (President/Lord Business):

You don’t have to be the bad guy.”

The characters take a moment to carefully consider their responses, and of course good wins. But I love how the movie drives home the idea of choice.  You don’t have to be the bad guy.  You can choose.

In some ways, this scene reminded me of the conversion of Darth Vader in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.  In the battle of good and evil, Luke is convinced that there is still good within his father.  The moment of conversion from Darth Vader back to Anakin Skywalker is the unexpected and almost unbelievable climax of the film, which leads to the triumph of good.

So many of the stories we watch and read (and show-to and tell our children) involve good triumphing over evil.  It’s rare to see a story of conversion, however. Usually, the bad guys are dismissed as evil and defeated (and often humiliated by the victor).

Yet it’s these stories of conversion that pervade Scripture, particularly as a major theme of Jesus’ teaching.


  • Think about the stories you’ve read or movies you’ve watched lately.  Are they stories of conversion or defeat-and-dismiss?

Paschal Mystery

Catholics use a lot of words and phrases that we don’t always stop to unpack and explain.  One of these is “the Paschal Mystery.”  I’m pretty sure that as a child I resigned myself to not understanding what it meant because as it says, it’s a mystery.

The Paschal Mystery refers to the Passion (suffering and death), Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus.

The very essence of Christian faith revolves around the fact that the suffering and death of Jesus was not the end of the story.  Rather, from His death, comes new life–in the Resurrection.

Death is not the end.  From death to new life.

It is a mystery because we do not understand how it happens.  But it does.  And in this mystery we find our salvation: death is not the end.

Moreover, it’s not just something that happened to Jesus.  God’s transforming power in the Paschal Mystery happens in our lives every day.  We see the cycles of from-death-to-new-life when we recover from brokenness, whether it is physical, emotional, spiritual, or even financial.

In the post Change Anything, Change Everything, I talked about my biggest regret mistake–my failed first marriage.  After that marriage ended, I was broken.  Shattered.  Depressed.  Eventually, I picked up the shattered pieces of my life, moved half-way across the country, and with the loving help of my family, an excellent therapist, and the right anti-depressant, I worked on healing and rebuilding.  And by the Grace of God, I healed.  I grew.  I matured.  I am not the same person I once was.  From-death-to-new-life, the Paschal Mystery is alive in me.


  • What are some of your own experiences of death-to-new-life?  How is the Paschal Mystery alive in you?

  • Where in the Paschal Mystery are you now: the suffering and death of the Passion on Good Friday?  The in-between of Holy Saturday?  New life in the Resurrection of Easter Sunday?


Lent is Coming

Lent

Ash Wednesday is around the corner, which marks the beginning of Lent.  Lent is a term derived from a word meaning “spring” or “springtime,” the season where we see nature go from death-to-new-life.  Like Jesus’ time in the desert, it is a journey of 40 days.

Theological Geek Moment (also known as “an interesting aside”):  Jesus wandered the desert for 40 days; Moses for 40 years; Noah wandered the waters for 40 days…  Ever wonder why 40?  For the ancient peoples, the number “4” carried the significance of an “earthly” meaning.  We have four seasons, the four directions (North, South, East, and West), the four elements of the body, and so on.  The number “10” means “a great many,” and the more zero’s the greater the many.  So the number 40 signifies a great many days/years, all over the earth.  The number “3” signifies divinity (not just the Trinity, but think about all the times when people in Scripture were selected in groups of threes).  When “3” and “4” – heaven and earth – come together, it signifies perfection and completion.  Numerically, this happens in two ways: 3 + 4 = 7 and 3 x 4 = 12.  Thus, 7 days of Creation, forgiving 7 times 70 times, the 12 Tribes of Israel, the 12 Apostles… a perfectly, complete number.

Getting back to Lent… Lent is literally a 40 day period, but since it’s 6 1/2 weeks, it doesn’t look like 40 days on the calendar.  There are 46 days from Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, but the six Sundays during Lent are not counted because we dedicate Sundays to celebrating the Resurrection.[/info-box]
Ash Wednesday sets us up for this Lenten journey, marking our foreheads with ashes and telling us to “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” The focus of Lent, Vatican II reminds us, is Baptism–either preparing to for the Sacrament of Baptism or preparing to take seriously the renewal of our baptismal promises at Easter.  Therein, the focus of Lent is conversion.  A death-to-new-life, turning away from sin.

Giving Something Up

As a child, I understood Lent as a time to give something up like soda or candy, but in my teen years, this felt very pedantic.  It felt like I was approaching Lent as a practice of self-denial so as to suffer.  Because Jesus suffered.

The Paschal Mystery is at the heart of our faith, and yes it involves suffering.  The Passion of Jesus refers to his suffering and death on Good Friday.  That’s an important part of the Paschal Mystery, but the story doesn’t end on Good Friday.  With a Paschal Mystery spirituality, Lenten practices are never about suffering for the sake of suffering.

Asceticism is an ancient practice that means self-denial or abstaining from worldly pleasures.  (Note that “asceticism” is distinct from the similar sounding “aesthetic” which means beauty.)  It is an opportunity to take something that we may be somewhat addicted to (like candy or soda or tv or electronic devices or Facebook), take that obsessive energy and instead direct it towards God.  When we find ourselves thinking about (or craving) that “thing,” we are presented with a built-in reminder to focus on God.  Ascetic practices serve to open us to new life in God.

Some people choose to take something up or do something positive rather than give something up.  In a manner of speaking, a person might give up their “free time” to attend daily mass.  But it’s deeper than that.  With a Pashcal Mystery spirituality, the aim is conversion; new life in Christ that honors our Baptismal promises.

Perhaps this involves giving up a sinful behavior; reminding ourselves “You don’t have to be a bad guy.”  Perhaps this involves intentionally practicing virtuous behavior.


  • Is there a Lenten practice that you could do to give up a sinful behavior or take up a virtuous behavior?


The LEGO Movie by Brickset licensed under CC BY 2.0

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