Here we are, about halfway through Lent. On Ash Wednesday each year, the 40 days or so seem to stretch endlessly before us, but then time speeds up and we may lose focus. How can we stay rooted in Lent in the midst of busy lives, pandemic issues and an international crisis?
One way to dig deeper in Lent is through Scripture. Some of the Gospel readings for the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent (these ones are optional this year) can help us unearth some opportunities to regroup.
Third Sunday: The Samaritan Woman at the well (John 4:5-42)
Think of a time when you were desperately thirsty. Maybe it was a hot summer’s day or you’d eaten something really salty. At times like those, we would give anything for a drink of fresh, cool water. It’s the simplest of things, but also incredibly precious. The Samaritan woman comes to draw water from Jacob’s well at high noon, the hottest part of the day. Talk about thirst! God uses her physical thirst for something bigger and better. She has a life-changing encounter with Jesus, where he tells her that he is the long-awaited Messiah.
Reflect: What are you thirsting for? Some possibilities: peace, forgiveness, freedom from addiction, justice, healthier relationships… Ask God to satisfy this thirst in you.
Fourth Sunday: The Man Born Blind (John 9:1-41)
Anyone who has had cataract surgery knows something about seeing clearly. After months or years of gradually deteriorating eyesight, where colours fade and words and faces blur, their vision is suddenly restored! Minutes after the operation, they can see the world in focus again. It’s miraculous. Having one’s sight restored is a perfect theme for Lent. This time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving allows us to reset our priorities and look at ourselves and God with fresh eyes.
Reflect: What are you having trouble seeing? Some possibilities: the good in others, hope, your own failings, opportunities to share what you have… Ask God to open your eyes.
Fifth Sunday: The Raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-45)
We all know the devastation and grief that accompany death, and we understand Martha’s and Mary’s sadness at the death of their brother. Jesus does, too. And yet, to everyone’s amazement, this is not the end of the story. Jesus raises Lazarus to life! This sign calls the people – and us – to deeper faith, even when it seems like all hope is lost.
Reflect: Which losses in your life get in the way of your faith? Ask God for strength. Which losses nourish your faith? Thank God for this blessing.
May the rest of your Lenten journey be fruitful!
Anne Louise Mahoney is managing editor of Novalis. She is the editor of Looking to the Laity: Reflections on Where the Church Can Go from Here and the author of I Hope, a book for young children.