We're into Lent! The English word for 'Lent' comes from old English which spoke of the 'lengthening' of the days, more light, less darkness, plants and animals coming alive, lambs gamboling in the field. Every year, we are given this opportunity to enter this time of Lent as a sort of springtime of the soul. We turn away from sin, overcome our self-centredness through fasting, open our hearts more to our neighbour, especially the poor, and make time to renew our relationship with the Lord in prayer.
Lent is 40 days. Why the 40 days? Many things in the Scriptures took 40 days: the Great Flood in Noah's time overwhelmed the world for 40 days and washed all the sinfulness away, Moses went up to the mountain for 40 days and encountered the living God who gave to him the ten commandments, the people of Ninevah repented and fasted and prayed for 40 days when Jonah preached to them, and of course, Jesus went into the desert and did battle with his Adversary, Satan, for 40 days. And so, for us human beings, it takes time to go into the desert, to shake off our sins, to enter into battle, to re-orientate our lives, and recover the truth of who we are in God's eyes. Faith is not magic; it demands a campaign.
So, this Lent, how about some spring-cleaning. Cardinal Dolan said, 'If there are problems all around us, it's not the world who is to blame, or the Church, but... me'. Let's begin with ourselves, the rest will follow.
Finally, I said at the beginning that Spring is often marked by the birth of lambs. But, for us as Christians, we will rejoice at the end of Lent with our Holy Week celebrations, when we enter into Christ's own passion and resurrection, the innocent Lamb who takes away the sin of the world, the Lamb slain, yet alive. Let us prepare ourselves...