In preparing to begin another Lent, I was haunted by a song from the movie Jesus Christ Superstar. It is a song sung by Mary Magdalene and the apostle Peter: Could We Start Again Please?
The question keeps resounding in my head and my heart: “Isn’t that what Lent is all about?” The question posed by each of us: “Could We Start Again, Please???” And God’s resounding answer: YES!
None of us is perfect and despite outward appearances there is brokenness in all of our lives. Each Lent is an opportunity for growth as a human person as a follower of Jesus. It calls us to reflect in honesty and humility on our brokenness—but not only on the brokenness, but on the grace and mercy and forgiveness of God who wants no more than to grace what is broken in our lives.
Unfortunately, Peter and Mary are not asking for a second chance for themselves but rather are looking for a way around the death and resurrection of Jesus. They want things to stay the same—something so many of us want. We are comfortable with the “status quo.” Change is difficult. The song’s melody is haunting as Mary Magdalene asks Jesus to start his ministry all over again so it doesn’t apparently end on Calvary. But he does go to Calvary and so must we. We are called to die to the old, to the comfortable, to the sinful in our lives in order to rise to something new. This is what our ashes mean. They are not a badge of honor but an outward sign of our humble acknowledgement of our need for God’s grace. They are a sign of our willingness to once again make room for that grace, and to allow it to transform us. I don’t need your grace and you don’t need mine. I think we sometimes homogenize grace as being the same for everyone so the whole thing is easier to deal with. We each need Lent as an opportune time to empty ourselves to make room in our lives for that specific grace God offers to each of us as beloved sons and daughters.
When it comes to the three traditions of Lent I wonder if as we start again, we can step out of our comfort zones and approach them a little differently? Not just for the sake of “stepping out,” but rather to take an action to enable a deeper conversion.
Prayer—spending more time listening in prayer, not necessarily talking all the time. Being quiet in waiting for the answer to the question: “What is God trying to tell me?”
Fasting—not just from food or drink, but from the routines we all fall into that prevent us from living consciously. Fasting from the things that dull my awareness of God’s presence in my life at every moment, in every relationship, in every human encounter.
Almsgiving—more than the “2 rolls of pennies in the mite box” but rather spending time looking for, finding, and acting in a concrete way to reach out to the poor and the marginalized.
We just concluded reading the Letter of Saint James at weekday Mass. I love James as he is blunt and to the point. There is no flowery theology or 55 word sentences with him. If you are looking for something in Scripture to read and reflect on during Lent I invite you to take up the Letter of James.
A special invitation: To those who only attend GOF sessions and to those who have stopped coming to Mass with any regularity, please take the opportunity of this Lent to come back and join us for Eucharist on the Sundays of Lent and join all of us in “starting again.”
I wish you God's peace,