1st Sunday of Lent

The Season of Lent

We have begun the Season of Lent, and what are the thoughts which fill our minds? Many and various I presume, but we are called upon to focus our thoughts in a particular way in this holy season, and seek to live out in simplicity and generosity, the commitment that we have made as Christians. The physical mark of the ashes has now gone, but will the symbolism remain or has that too been washed away? Hopefully not, and the gospels of this Lent, will serve to help us keep that symbolism alive.

The mark of the ash on our foreheads is a powerful reminder to us that our lives are finite, and that ultimately we are all dependent on God. He made us and we belong to him, and in the words of St Augustine we are restless until we come to rest in him. This restlessness is expressed in the constant searching and questioning which so defines who we are, and our quest for understanding and meaning in our lives is an ever-present en- quiry. It can take us to many different destinations, as the gospels dis- close. We can feel sometimes that we are in a lonely and isolated wilder- ness, bereft of family and friends, isolated and without hope because of what happens to us. Alternatively we can feel ecstatic and experience the joy of feeling on top of the world, and everything is hunky dory and we are without a care in the world. We sometimes forget that in both of these situations, Jesus is there with us; in the wilderness facing tempta- tion, as well as on the mountain top shining forth in his glory. They might seem like the two extremes of the spectrum, shorn of reality, yet for some, they are real enough.

We will also meet the woman at the well, whose life has been a series of calamitous relationships, and who then meets a stranger who asks her for a drink, and in that watery exchange is offered a whole new perspective and dimension about herself and just what she is capable of becoming. Then a man born blind, cast aside by family and friends, is given his sight and in recognising who it is who enlightens him, challenges those around him to come to faith and be similarly enlightened. Finally a distraught and bereaved family are lost and confused by the death of their brother. A man taken before his time and for no good reason, a seemingly sense- less, incomprehensible death. Yet his life is restored, made present again because of faith and belief. We will read about these happenings over the next five weeks, and we will be asked to think deeply about their rele- vance for us as we search our minds to discover what lies at their heart. What will we find?

Let us pray that they will speak personally to us and help us to fathom what we are asked to become. Our Lent begins in a wilderness, a place of harshness, a garden shorn of water, sparse and dry. It will end in another garden where life and death will have duelled and life emerges victorious. This is the journey of change and possibility which we are on, lead by the Lord of life.

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