I went to Ash Wednesday mass at my sister’s amazing and wonderfully welcoming parish, St. Peter’s, in Charlotte. I was soothed by the familiar Lenten scriptures, both what was read and in the songs. “Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke?” Isaiah 58:6 And then Joel 2:13 tells us “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity”. Then my favorite Lenten song, Hosea, “Come back to me with all your heart, Don’t let fear keep us apart.”
I must admit, I have never really gotten into lent. I guess I am not big on penitence and self-denial. But this lent is different for some reason. I am really looking forward to it.
I spend the first half hour of every morning on my balcony overlooking Port-au-Prince as the sun rises. This is my quiet time, my time before the hecticness of life in Haiti begins again. I have a few meditation books, the liturgy of the hours, and of course, my journal. Sometimes I even draw. It is a beautiful way to start each day. On days I sleep in, I notice a missing calmness in my spirit that day. It is my time away in “the desert”.
But all these years, I think I have been missing out. Lent is a time for us to go to the desert – the spiritual desert and take stock – where are we not doing so hot in our spiritual lives. And where we need to grow. It is a time of reflection and inner quiet, as we prepare for new life. It is almost like spending the whole 40 days of Lent on my balcony at sunrise.
It was nice to go to mass today. I even think I did ok with the “and with your spirit” bit, which is rather new to me. I must admit, I have been a bit lazy in Haiti and have not really found a parish to go to on a regular basis. So the new mass dialogue is an adjustment. I am not saying that going to church or synagogue or mosque or the temple makes you a better person. But I think it can help remind us of why we are here – to build community and to build peace and to love each other. Lots.
Back to lent. So I am looking forward to these 40 days in the desert. Let us not be afraid. Let us rend our hearts and pray for repentance, and grace and forgiveness and peace. The world needs it. And so do we.