Here it is Shrove Tuesday, and it’s time to finalise the Lent plans. The question is always what to give up and what to take on. When I had to give up both caffeine and alcohol for medical reasons, it really cut into my options for Lent! This year spending most of February in the grip of the grippe, or whatever it is that has been going around this part of Southern Ontario during the Winter that Isn’t, has put me behind in my Lent planning.
But when I tried to think of something to give up, social media seemed like a good thing to try. It will be hard for me, but I can use the time to make more regular contributions to this blog. And I do find that both Twitter and FB tend to involve me in political discussions that are not good for my spiritual state. I will benefit from a space in which to pray for greater discernment and to cultivate the knowledge that I and all those I love are in God’s hands.
Today I saw the best preparation for Lent that has come my way for a long time: an article about what the Pope suggests giving up for Lent. Secure in the knowledge, or at least the hope, that it would not be chocolate, I read on to discover that the Holy Father wants us to give up indifference. Indifference to God, indifference to one another. We cannot begin to fulfil the two great commandments of Love that Jesus gave us if we are indifferent to those we ought to love. The Pope said:
“Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.”
I am especially taken with the connection that Francis seems to be making between having a troubled conscience and overcoming the temptation to indifference. A troubled conscience awakens us to the immense difference between things as they are and things as they were created to be, between God’s sovereignty and that sovereignty that human beings claim. Once we are awakened it is much harder to drift back into an indifferent acceptance of the world as it is. And the prophets keep that conscience awake by the Word of God that they speak. As we try to discern how to apply the prophetic words in circumstances so very different from the ones in which they were first spoken and written, only love can sustain and help us. In loving God we accept God’s vision for the world and our role, however large or small, in fulfilling it. In loving our neighbours we approach ever closer to the Reign of God, a time of active love and peace.
In my beloved Monday night Bible Study we are not going to be studying a Lent book or the Lenten readings this year. Instead we will stick with our current book of the Bible: Jeremiah. By continuing to wrestle with perhaps the darkest of the prophets I hope we can hear the voice of which the Pope speaks, the voice that cries our and troubles our conscience.
A good Lent is not a comfortable one! What indeed is a good Lent? One in which we are able to overcome that indifference of which the Pope speaks, certainly, one in which we are awakened and disturbed anew by the prophets. Most importantly, one in which we are prepared to walk with Jesus along the way of the Cross through Holy Week with hearts open to the Love that would not turn aside until the way to right relationship with God and neighbour lay open to all.
I’m sorry by the way that it’s been so long between posts, but “the grippe” I mentioned above really took me out of circulation for a while. I hope during Lent to make more regular posts, hopefully reflection on the Lent readings.