Lent 2021 aka COVID 19 Lockdown
Today is February 15th, a somber day in Newfoundland and Labrador as we mark the 39thanniversary of the sinking of the oil rig Ocean Ranger when 84 lives were lost in the frigid and cruel Atlantic Ocean.
Today is also the third day of the complete lock down of our province dramatically proclaimed last Friday night due to the recent spike in COVID 19 cases and the arrival of the Uvariant.
Then there is Lent. My first reaction is “Who needs Lent? We are already living it.” But perhaps Lent has arrived at just the right time.
The COVID 19 “stripping away” of many jobs, financial security, amenities and social interactions reminds me of the same “stripping away” that Jesus experienced when he entered the desert for 40 days. Jesus stayed in one time and one place to focus on his relationship with God, to discern who he was, and what his mission was in God’s plan. He was beset by heat, hunger, thirst, isolation, and temptations. How easy and attractive it would have been for him to give up. But he didn’t.
The lock down has forced us to stay in one time and one place this Lent, hopefully giving us the opportunity to focus on our relationship with God, to discern who we really are, and what is our mission in God’s plan. We, too, can be beset by loneliness and fear, uncertainty and dread, as we are challenged by the many stresses that the pandemic has added to our lives. It would be very easy for us to give up and say, “to h— with God! What is God doing for me?”
This is where the Gospel story of the Road to Emmaus comes to my mind (Luke 24: 13-35 ). I iimagine the two disciples thinking or saying , “to h— with Jesus!” as they left Jerusalem, in a state of anger, confusion, disappointment and many more powerful emotions.
Then Jesus appeared to them, joined them in their walk. He listened to their intense feelings and then explained Scripture to them, asking “ Was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and then enter into hisglory?” (v 26). They invited Jesus to stay with them as it was getting dark.
They recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Jesus was with them all along and they did not see, hear or feel his presence. Jesus is with us now in the midst of the pandemic lock down and we too, may not see, hear or feel his presence.
One daily prayer practice that may help us see, hear and feel Jesus’ presence in our daily lives is the Examen, developed by St. Ignatius Loyola. It is an opportunity for peaceful daily reflective prayer. It invites us to find the movement of God in all the people and events of our day, even or especially during the pandemic.
You might wonder why I chose a Resurrection story for a Lenten reflection. We need to think (or even pray) outside the box. When I was asked why I chose a Resurrection story, I passionately replied, “We desperately need Resurrection. We desperately need hope.” We are on a path now, with no map or GPS, no time frame, no clear destination, no idea how, when or if it will end, no idea of who or what we will find.
But Jesus is on that path with us, just as he was on the path with the two disciples. Hopefully, at the end of our path, our Lenten journey, we will realize that that Jesus has been with us all along.
We will realize that we are indeed a Resurrection people. We will joyfully proclaim that the Risen Christ is with us. We will find that we have a “fire within us”. We will share our joy with everyone we meet. We will fulfil our mission to lead others to Jesus.
Thanks be to God !!!