We are entering a 2022 Lenten season with great trepidation and fear for the future. Many of our Christian sisters and brothers are facing risks that we can barely even contemplate. We have all seen articles in world news, and we can see from ourselves the far and bewilderment on the faces of Ukrainian civilians who are either fleeing with a single suitcase or staying behind to fight; clutching babies or heroically standing in front of enemy tanks.
Our own Lenten journey may be influenced by these world pictures on the television. When everything else is stripped away, what is really important? Beyond our families, it is our faith, our personal integrity, that lies at the heart of our lives. We act, speak, work, respond in the light of our faith and integrity. Whether we are in peacetime or at war, this is what drives us, but it is during war that we see the absolute and undiluted reality of people abandoning the temporal aspects of life and taking with them the very bare necessities.
We are not at war, here in Ireland. But spiritual warfare is something we all experience. Lent is an opportunity to press the reset button, to reassess where we are in our journey of faith. To put it frankly: are we truly being Christians? Just as our leaders have opened our borders to those who need to flee war, are we living our life in an open way, open to those around us, freely offering love – not only to our own social circle but to those whom we might find challenging? Are we, as individuals, keeping our personal borders open: willing to listen to others, willing to speak in advocacy of those who need our help? Are we doing the shop-floor work of Jesus, living Christ-like in a world that shuns God?
Lent is a preparation, a time set aside for the reception of God in our hearts. The liturgical year gives us something of a returning theatre in which we reenact the life of Jesus, living as it were through the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of He whom we emulate. As we enter into this preparation, we invite ourselves to reenact the passion and death of Christ, to re-find our sense of empathy for what happened to Jesus. It will be difficult to separate the reality of the crucifixion with the pain of our world, especially as fresh and fierce war unfolds in the west and many civilians rush to defend the reign of peace. Through the lens of 2022, we may still see the splintered wood of the Cross, see the dripping blood of ultimate martyrdom and, please God, the open tomb of Christ Risen. Let us, then, enter into Lent 2022 with a new heart, a new openness to keep Christ as our rock and Saviour. Amen.