The Swirl of Lent Becomes a Stream of Grace
I heard an artist explain why at times he paints with oils and other days with watercolors. When life is in chaos he choses oils because they stay where he puts them and he can return later and move them where he wants. He is in control. But, he said, when my life is too organized, when I need freedom, then I like the watercolors. I put them on a wet piece of paper and they go where they want. I enjoy the surprise of the beautiful colors and the patterns that emerge.
We have begun Lent the journey into the mystery of Our Lord’s suffering, death and resurrection – the Lenten days of preparation, the Triduum and the fifty days of the Resurrection. Lent is like a stream running to the Triduum, to the mystery of Jesus’ dying and rising. It begins with tiny sources here and there that come together feeding the stream that takes me into some aspect of this mystery of God’s love. This is a long hand way to describe the naming of the graces at work these days.
I am feeling it will be a watercolor Lent so far. We describe the Triduum as one great day where the entire mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus is present. There is victory even on the Cross, the marks of the wounds even at the resurrection, all creation blossoming in the quiet of the tomb, and in the breaking of the bread the living memory that becomes, as best we can describe it, a sharing of the banquet table in the Kingdom of God. All these colors swirl around making such amazing patterns.
As the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection swirl around the Triduum, so in our Lenten preparation the celebration we prepare washes back into our preparation. It is at work forming the stream of grace guiding us into the unique gifts of God for us.
Joel’s first words of Lent, ‘Return to me with all your heart’ are words of a lover to a loved one who is separated by place, or distraction, or perhaps betrayal. These words are spoken to us by God. Imagine being called to the embrace of this Lover!
Today Isaiah says, do not push others down, but raise them up. Live the Sabbath, that is, enter the time of walking with God again in the garden. In Jesus we believe this time is now realized. The garden gates are open to us. Matthew hears the words, ‘come follow me’. Like Peter and the fishermen he also ‘leaves everything behind’ to follow’.
May what we prepare to celebrate flow back to us today and draw us on. Even a willing disciple stumbles before the mystery of the Cross; pushed down, burdened, the Shepherd will be raised up and draw all to himself. Did the ‘come follow me’ spoken by Jesus to Matthew sound in Matthew’s ears more like the voice of Joel, ‘return to me with all your heart’? Will we hear those words spoken to us today? Will they come as unexpectedly as to Matthew? Will we be as responsive or slip a few coins in our pocket, just in case? May the celebration for which we prepare come back to ‘delight’ us these Lenten days. It is a time when we don’t ‘follow our ways’. For Jesus the Sabbath was not meant to limit, He becomes the Sabbath and makes grace free to flow where it will. May we enjoy the surprising colors and patterns of this Lenten time.
Fr. William Murphy, CP, is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.