26 March, Sunday — On Lent

5th Sunday of Lent

Eze 37:12-14
Rm 8:8-11
Jn 11:1-45

“..when I open your graves and raise you from your graves… And I shall put my spirit in you, and you will live, and I shall resettle you on your own soil…”

Every Lent, I try to fast from anger. In my head, I see myself wandering through the desert, as Christ would have done. It is hot and dusty. I am tired. I am thirsty. I am hungry. There are stones in my sandals. I am in need of a bath. I am irritable; beyond irritable, in fact. I hold that visual in my mind whenever I feel rage rise in me. It’s been this way every Lent for many years now, with mixed success; more Sisyphean Slog than Lazarean Resurrection if I’m honest. True conversion is supposed to be the work of a lifetime, so maybe it’s meant to be difficult, and failure is to be expected. Welcomed even? “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-9). My hope is that when I am no longer ‘in the flesh’ – i.e. when I am dead – God will recognize the intent, the faith, the perseverance, and forgive the mixed results.

Because I’ve been working on this for so long, I can now say I know what triggers my anger. Some people most definitely enrage me more than others. Simply being around them makes me brittle. So during Lent, to fulfil the ‘almsgiving’ aspect of the season, I put myself in a position where I am forced to spend time with them. Where I am forced to listen to them, to be patient with them, to be compassionate, to encourage instead of criticize or smart-mouth. I’ve asked myself if it might not be easier to put alms in an envelope at church and call it good, but every year some strange compulsion for punishment drives me to do the same. Have I learned anything from this exercise? Well…yes. I know the why, what, who and how behind my anger. And knowing is half the battle to overcome it.

I have often wondered why God doesn’t just bury the enraged, brittle, broken version of me, and resurrect Lazarus-like, the serene, joyful, faithful, God-praising me. He is all-powerful, so why put up with my stumbling, sub-par efforts? Why doesn’t He do that for us all, in fact? Bury the old, sinful versions of us. Open the graves and resurrect a new humanity, one that has His spirit and that is pleasing to Him. But then I remember that He waited till Lazarus had been dead for four days before doing anything. Why? So we could all learn something, presumably. So we could all arrive there, having put in the work and experience epiphany for ourselves, possibly. So we would understand, in some small measure, the grace and glory of God, undoubtedly. 

Lent used to be a season that I would dread. But this Lent, something seems to have…shifted. I can feel it. This Lent, I have found myself sloughing off superficialities and making way for solitude and reflection. I’ve started to see Lent not as a chore, but as a turning of the page, like I am writing a new story, in an unfamiliar hand. Maybe my old, sinful self is dying finally? What does the new me look like? Is this what living in the Spirit feels like? A new story, on a new page, written in an unfamiliar hand? Imagine the possibilities.  

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all Catholics this Lenten season. May we each encounter in our prayer, fasting and giving of our time, talent and treasure, the epiphanies that God wants us to receive.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, who inspires within us, all that is possible when we surrender ourselves to journeying with God.


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