Lent – I don’t like this negative season!
Few weeks after Christmas, and we are already in Lent. From lights to decorations, candles and colours we find ourselves in a sort of barren land covered with ashes. Is it a “negative” season following the “positive” one?
Following the Christmas season fundraising marathons, we hear the praises being sung to the “good heartedness of the Maltese people”. For many, such moments bring to light qualities and ways of behaving that make us genuinely human. It could be a moment of revelation, a moment of hope in humanity. We also sense that there is some kind of common “north” to our different compasses. We still warm up to goodness, kindness, generosity.
Going beyond the Maltese good heartedness
We can skip through Lent and continue to celebrate “our good heartedness” or we can go beyond and scan our own heart. Though Lent seems to some as a time for moaning and flogging, we are really being invited to a journey of truth which is ultimately a journey of hope.
“Those who give big cheques get prime exposure, those who give everything are hidden in daily routine ”
Two examples can illustrate how Jesus takes us gently but firmly through this heart scan journey.
- Jesus sees people putting donations in large amounts but says to his disciples: “Look at the widow. She put the least amount but gave more than the rest. She gave all she had”. What is the measuring stick we use to check the quality of our heart as persons, or as a nation: quantity or quality? Those who give big cheques get prime exposure. Those who give everything – those who put their heart into it, those who give in a disinterested way – are often hidden in the daily routine. But it is they who keep hope in humanity alive. It is measured in the resilience of mothers and fathers, in their faithfulness in challenging moments of their children; in the faithfulness of people who accompany those who are terminally ill or persons struggling with mental health; in the courage of those who persevere in the work for justice despite setbacks.
- “Who is my neighbour?” asked the learned. “Who behaved as a neighbour?” asks Jesus our guide. We all have ways to trick the doctor when we are afraid to face the real issue. Truth might call for a change in lifestyle and mentality. Jesus, as a good doctor, patiently tells stories that open new insights. The story of the good Samaritan is one of them. It illustrates how we prefer to discuss who “merits” our generosity. With this mentality, our arteries get thinner thus affecting the health of our very heart. There are some groups/categories of people whom we find it easy or more fashionable to donate to. Others not. Who are the ones we find it difficult to respond to as “neighbour”? Could they be the ones through whom God heals our heart (on a personal and national level)? Helping us put our priorities in place?
Lent starts with ashes. It appears to be too weak to compete with the blinding lights of successive festive seasons. But it is only through Lent that the humble yet reals acts of love are taken up by the Lord, blessed, broken and shared as signs of hope “for you and for all”, for the Maltese and for all. Under the ashes there are embers to be rediscovered and set aflame by God’s grace. But are we ready for the operation?
Fr Jimmy Bonnici
Published: February 2018