By ANTOINETTE BOSCO, CNS | Published April 1, 2004
When I was very young, it was clear to me that Lent had a specific meaning. It was the time to chalk up sacrifices, like grades on a report card, so I would not forget how flawed a person I was.
Even as I got older I thought this was solely a time to think about my mortality, my destiny of ashes. I thought the importance of Lent was to keep the reminder of my death ever fresh, and so I kept my body uncomfortable with self-denials and morning risings at 5:30 in order to make it to 6:30 Masses.
Lent for me was colored purple and fringed with black. The effect of the 40 days of Lent in the earlier years of my life was to put a focus on me, my soul and my salvation.
Then gradually, well into my adulthood, I found that I had misinterpreted the road signs from Ash Wednesday to Easter. Lent wasn’t deep purple; it was green, teeming with life. It wasn’t suffering and death; it was love and hope.
That required a readjustment in my thinking. In my mind Christmas was the season of love and hope. The coming of God as an innocent baby was a natural for love-thoughts. Knowing that the baby who had come was the one who would jolt us into a new human and joyful way of interpreting life added to the excitement.
Then Lent came, with its Good Friday uneasy love, and we got so caught up in the mourning that we shrouded the impact of what had happened. In his preaching Jesus had said, “Greater love than this no man has, that he lay down his life for his friend.’’
Christmas was the promise that Jesus would transform the world with his love, and it was peaches and cream. But Good Friday was the fulfillment of the promise. Without Good Friday, Christmas would have been just another day on which another Jewish male child had been born. It would have gone quite unnoticed by history.
Unless we embrace the fact that Lent is about Good Friday, and Good Friday set the model for what it means to truly love, then we’re stuck in the deep purple. Jesus defined love in terms of what he was willing to give of himself for another. And on Good Friday he showed us that he set no limit on his love.
Strange, how we all yearn to be loved like that, completely, perfectly, no conditions attached. Strange, how difficult it is for us to love others that way.
I think Lent is the time for reflecting on love, as demonstrated by Jesus, by whatever method you choose: fasting, morning Mass or volunteering in a soup kitchen. Lent is the time for trying a little harder to say yes to his invitation to make this an ever-green world.