Yesterday the Church observed the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday. If we took it seriously, it was a day that challenged and changed the rhythm of our life. It upset our patterns, our expectations of what is normal. If so, it was a good start to Lent.
For, Lent is meant to be deeply upsetting, just as spring is upsetting to the somnolence of winter. The first stages of spring’s awakening the earth are sometimes brutal, and marked by a back-and-forth tussle between the cold and dormancy of one season and the warming growth of another. During that transition, times can be uncertain, unclear, and murky.
Today is the second day of Lent. It has no special name. It is just another Lenten day. But, it is every bit as important as yesterday, in that it is an opportunity to be committed to the unsettling work of God. It is likely we will prefer sleep, winter, dormancy; these are easier in the short run. So, sadly, is death. We live in a world conformed to death and its “norms” of complacency, pessimism, cynicism, and selfishness.
What we know of God, however, makes clear that there is no compromise with death. At no time may a Christian cope with death or sin; we must either battle it in the victorious light of Christ’s victory over the devil’s temptations in the desert (which we will reflect on this Sunday) and at Easter, or we must surrender to it and choose death over Life. This is all there is.
Today we may again choose winter – the habits of a life gradually digging itself deeper into the cold embrace of conformity to death. Or, we may journey further into the springtime of the soul. We see the destination already, a limitless land high on a hill, shining with the light of the Transfiguration. The road ahead is the unique terrain of our heart, and Christ is the guide who knows both the difficulty and the joy of what we face. The important thing is that we choose spring, choose life, choose again on each ordinary Lenten day. When we do so, we will arrive at Easter as people who desire an eternal springtime, and one we are in fact ready to receive.