Lenten Reflection: Season of Love
March 8, 2016 Comments Off on Lenten Reflection: Season of Love
Think back to the first Sunday in Lent. Do you remember hold cold it was? It was maybe the coldest day of this winter, with morning temperatures below zero when the wind chill factor was taken into account. It was also, by coincidence, Valentine’s Day. On that cold morning, Father Mark Bozzuti-Jones at Trinity began his sermon by stating that it was appropriate that Lent 1 fell on Valentine’s day this year, because the “whole season of Lent is all about love.” I was stopped in my tracks! I didn’t really hear the rest of the sermon. Fortunately, I could go back later and listen to the podcast, but this reflection is not about the rest of the sermon. It is about that startling, jarring opening line. When I heard it, I started to practically vibrate with rushing thoughts. No, I thought, that can’t be right. Lent is about penance, giving up, sacrifice, discipline, gloominess, somber reflection, isn’t it? That’s how I’ve always thought of Lent. I confess it is not my favorite liturgical season. Growing up Roman Catholic, it was all about what to give up, seemingly to make oneself sufficiently unhappy to deserve to be redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice. Later on, Lent became for me more about taking something on, doing more spiritual reading and reflection, but still doing it as a form of penance, but one that might teach me something, and not always liking the doing very much, struggling to find the right time to fit extra readings into my schedule. Still later in life, I came to appreciate the quiet time of reflection, but maybe not enough to continue it year-round despite my best intentions.
However, as I pondered Father Mark’s words, they began to resonate with me. What if we begin to think of the season of Lent as a season of love? After all, John 3:16 tells us: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If Jesus was sent out of love, God’s unconditional love for us, what happens if we focus on love during Lent? For me, that focus this Lent has given new meaning to my spiritual practices, and new meaning to the few small sacrificial practices. With the emphasis on love, not punishment, I see things a new way. Repentance can come from love; sacrifice can come from love. Making love the focus leads me to use different scriptural passages for contemplation and reflection. Think 1 Corinthians 13:13 (But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.) Or, as was one of the morning prayer reading recently, Mark 12:28-34, in which Jesus gives the two “great commandments.”
Thinking about God’s unconditional love for creation, and thinking about God in us, how can we not treat all of creation with love and respect? It’s a challenge, and one that we won’t always get right. I know I won’t, but I can try, and when I fail, I can try again, and again. The process will teach me. May you all have a love-focused second half of Lent.
– Julia Alberino