When I was a little girl, I used to make Lent as difficult as possible. Jesus suffered and died on a cross for me—what could I do, how could I express my devotion and love to him in a way that would show my resolve, dedication, and love? As I have gotten older, lived a bit, loved, and experienced hurt, I have come to think a bit differently about Lent, most specifically, this year.
The readings for today, March 14, lend themselves to the harsh reality that is sometimes expressed about this time in our liturgical calendar. But, there is also a gentleness and tenderness that we can find in these readings. So, what if we approached Lent with a desire to be gentle to ourselves, to assess our failings with kindness, and tenderly correct ourselves?
We see this offered to us in the first reading with a God who grants clemency. The psalm response ‘the Lord is kind and merciful’ is not always the gut response for Lent. The parable of the prodigal son, while well known (much ink has been spilled over where we see ourselves in this story, which is a good exercise to do!) could be explored from another angle. What if we were to examine the story with a lens of what it means to be in right relationship? What if we examine each of the emotions or feelings that prevent us from seeking reconciliation with others, with ourselves, and most significantly, with our loving God? How would this encourage us to think differently about our 40 days of Lent?
For me, this Lent is calling me to reflect in a deep way of where I have failed in some of my relationships with my friends and loved ones.
- Where and how have I not been present?
- Have I failed to show up in ways that are meaningful?
- Do I carry a guilt about the last words I said?
- Was I where I needed to be as a support for others?
Genevieve L. Mougey, M.Div., is the head of the Office for Social Concerns for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. She formerly worked for Bread for the World and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.