Prayer. Sacrifice. Service.
OK, I admit it. I’m not too crazy about Lent. Partly it’s my personal struggles. I almost always feel I’m functioning nearly at full capacity and the thought of adding any thing to an already overcrowded schedule voluntarily seems like the height of madness.
Partly it’s a revulsion against what I perceive as a sado-masochistic streak running through the history of Catholicism – a sense that we place way too much emphasis on the bloody Jesus of the Passion Account and not nearly enough emphasis on the beauty of the Incarnational mystery as a whole. By doing so, we stoke the feelings of guilt and unworthiness among the faithful, feelings which are a fundamental part of the human condition, so that they might be better manipulated to do the bidding of the elite.
Last week, however, I saw the Passion Account from a new perspective. I was viewing a crucial section of the movie Amistad with one of my classes during which the lead defendant among a group of captured African slaves recounts the horrors of the middle passage from Africa to America at the time of the slave trade. It was upsetting to many in the class and a hushed silence descended onto the group as we finished the last scene.
“I think this is the point of Lent,” I said. “To give us an opportunity to look at how horrible sin really is so that we might be truly revolted by it. Because that’s when real repentence can begin.”
As so often happens, I had no idea I was even thinking such a thing until I said it out loud to my students. Having reflected upon my words, I would only add that we should have no fear in looking into that darkness within, because what the Passion Account proclaims most loudly is that there’s a light behind it that’s much stronger – the love of the risen Christ.
So if a more intense dedication to prayer and service during Lent leads to a sacrifice in the form of naming and rejecting a darkness within, all by the grace of God of course, that just might be a good Lent’s work.
But all of that begins tomorrow. Today I am going to Party.
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)
(If you are looking for a retreat leader, presenter, or seminar leader on Christian theology in general or scriptural topics in particular, you can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I am also interested in doing inter-faith work.)