Taken from The Irish Catholic February 11, 2021 by Fr Vincent Sherlock
Now there is a question. If Lent is about self-sacrifice, deprivation and slowing things down, then we have had the longest 40 days ever, in the wilderness that is called Covid. So much of what we enjoy, take for granted and rely on for normality in life has been taken away and personal sacrifice seems to be, quite literally, the order of the day. As we face towards the week ahead. Ash Wednesday and Lent, it is difficult to recall a time when our hearts have been heavier, our spirits more crushed and our faith more challenged.
And yet, that is where we are. In the coming days we will throw the mix on the pan, add some fillings and flavour and share a Shrove Tuesday meal – as long as we are in a “bubble”, otherwise it will be a solo journey. The tradition around this, as I understand it, was the clearing out of the kitchen presses so that the Lenten Fast could begin. It was something around the last taste of sweetness for a while and preparing for a few weeks of soul searching and sacrifice that would lead to Holy Week, the unfolding of its story and to the empty tomb of Easter and, of course the cracking open of the Easter eggs and the restocking of the kitchen cabinets. There was a pattern and a rhythm there, that sounded out the journey of faith and called out to us to try our best.
The big temptation for us all this year is to say, “I’ve had enough” and to turn our backs on the days and weeks that we call Lent. Thinking of that word, Lent, it reminds us that the days are lengthening and that brighter times are ahead. Could it also be a reminder to us that the world and the life we lead are “lent” to us, given to us “on loan” and that we need to be careful and respectful in the way we approach them? If we have been lucky enough to escape the impacts of Covid, might this be a time to express thanks for that? If, sadly, we have been impacted or maybe lost a loved one to this dreaded illness, might this be a time to remember the difference they made in our lives and to honour their memory through some form of reflection, self-awareness and in a lasting thanksgiving for the difference they made in our lives.
Has Lent this year something to offer us? Chances are, it has. It reminds us of the sufferings of Christ, of the temptations he experienced in the wilderness and that there can be at times much darkness around us. Into this darkness, come thoughts, doubts and pressures not of our making or choosing. In this darkness too, seeking to banish it – to conquer it, is Christ. It is with him and because of him we can and will come through this.
So, back to the question, what to give up for Lent 2021? Maybe grumbling, irritability, cynicism, apathy, despair, anger, hostility, negativity are among the things we might consider giving up. There is room too for taking up during Lent – kindness, encouragement, peacefulness, graciousness, patience, spirituality, awareness, tenderness, selflessness…ah, there is so much we could take up that could make a real difference, lengthen our days, and shorten the Lent!
We will not be gathering this year but maybe that gives us a chance to hear again the words of the gospel we read on Ash Wednesday: “Go to your private room, close the door and pray to your Father who is in that secret place and your Father, who sees all that is done in secret, will reward you.”
Enjoy the pancakes! Live the Lent and look forward to brighter days.
Editor: A wonderful reflection Fr Vincent Sherlock. Thank you so much.