Finally, we can stop singing, “Oh, the weather outside is frightful” and begin singing the old Lesley Gore song, “Sunshine, lollipops, rainbows and everything…”
I guess it’s planned that way – begin Lent in darkness and concludes with rays of light. Sin/Hope, the two staples of all of our lives. I always feel sorry for those folks who live in Arizona or Florida. Lent begins and ends attending Mass wearing shorts and golf shoes. Midwest folks know the transition because we can both feel it in our bones and in our souls. Weather is full of awe for us as is our faith. But it’s not rules and regulations that gathers us each week but the wonder that is found in the Trinity and the Blessed Mother.
Confession and contrition is not the braunschweiger sandwich we ate that Friday in Lent, but it’s the twenty-one-year-old who says, “Been that, done that,” or “Same old, same old.” That apathy applies to eighty-one years old as well.
A burning bush that does not burn out. Its flame continues because it did not originate or end with us. I have a friend who needs a gas valve to ignite his family’s fireplace on a cold or damp night. It sounds trite, but God’s given us this marvelous gift of life to be breathed and shared with others. I remember an Alexian Village resident who told me that he’s lost more friends than he has now. His fire is slowly extinguishes. There is no fruit growing on his tree. I’d love to hear a confession, not about that braunschweiger sandwich but admitting that someone’s lost their path in life. The awe of God escapes them, for whatever reason. Isn’t that the expression, “Burned out?” A priest friend told me about that expression, “He may want to light the candle first in order for it to go out.” Awe surrounds us each day which can only connect us to the awe of God. The cowboy who shyly says to his girlfriend with his legs twitching each other, “Aw, shucks Mame.” That’s the awe of God. That’s a burning bush burning brightly that nothing in this life ever can water down.
It’s the awe of a cancer patient who loves and lives life as best she can. She dies at forty-two but writes a book, published posthumously to her two young daughters whom she will never see graduate from grade school, get married or to hug her grandchildren. That’s awe. She uses one of my favorite words, “juxtaposition.” It’s between the two supposed absolutes in this conflicted life of ours (which really isn’t that conflicted). “Two things placed closely together with contrasting effect,” says the dictionary. You want a definition of God’s awe? Here are hers.
To her daughters she wrote, “You will understand that nothing lasts forever, no pain, or joy. You will understand that joy cannot exist without sadness. Relief cannot exist without pain. Compassion cannot exist without cruelty. Courage cannot exist without fear. Hope cannot exist without despair. Wisdom cannot exist without suffering. Gratitude cannot exist without desperation. Paradoxes abound in this life. The living is an exercise in navigating within them.”
As these sunlit days now lengthen, how can you hit a home run with our Lenten journey? How can you respond to this great faith of ours in your thoughts, words and especially in your deeds? Let’s slide into home plate and encounter ever more deeply the love God has for us and the awe that draws us to God. As Billy Joel rightly sang, “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” but it is definitely our job to keep that God-created fire burning.