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Marking the beginning of Lent, Ash Wednesday caught many of us by surprise. It arrived so early this year! Here we are, already celebrating the 2nd Sunday of Lent. Amidst the busyness of life, we might be catching up, only now truly able to settle into this season. We pause, gaining a sense of direction for this year’s Lenten journey.

We gently allow ourselves to stop and reflect on how Lent is meeting us – and how we are meeting Lent. The origin word, Lente, is worthy of pondering. In the Dutch language, lente means spring. In Latin, lente means slowly. Lente also refers to the eyepiece, the part of a telescope through which we look.

Any of these might help us to see things a little differently this year. To what aspect of life is God directing my attention? Where is God inviting me to focus sincere effort?

If we consider Lent as spring, where is God inviting me to some kind of a new beginning? What is new and green and growing in my life? What kind of nurture and support will help me to become more fully alive?

While instant results are often preferred, it takes time for new life, new habits, and new ways of being to emerge. Growth often moves more slowly than we would like. The Latin understanding, slowly, is often the least favourite.

Sometimes, when things are moving far more slowly than we would prefer, it can be helpful to have a bit of wisdom tucked into mind and heart. Words ready to restore our sense of balance, and offering us the precious gift of peace. Mary Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger, founder of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, offered this timeless wisdom:

All the works of God proceed slowly and in pain; but then, their roots are the sturdier and their flowering the lovelier.

Mary Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger

Today’s Gospel reading (Mark 9:2-10) invites us, once again, to look closely at the Transfiguration. After a small select group had slogged their way up a high mountain, they shared a deep and profound experience. They witnessed as clothing became so dazzling white, they knew the experience was not of human origin.

Terrified, Peter immediately offered to “do something.” It would be grand and noteworthy to build three dwellings. It would offer concrete evidence of the event, and allow everyone to “hold on” to the experience.

That was not to be. What they came away with was a clear instruction about how they were to live. They were to listen to Jesus, God’s Beloved Son.

On the way down the mountain, Jesus told them to say nothing. Silence and patient waiting, with no concrete evidence of the encounter, and no permission to speak of it. Simply the clear instruction: “listen to him.”

If nothing else happens this Lent, we can respond more attentively to the invitation that echoes across the years. We can allow these words to really take root in our minds and hearts.

If I might share a story. I once needed to decide about inviting someone into a particular program. The interview behaviour had been less than admirable, and I was experiencing outside pressure to include this person. Conflicted and confused, and needing to pray and ponder, I stopped in at the local parish. At the entrance, I belatedly picked up a copy of that year’s Lenten reflection booklet: It All Comes Down to Mercy. My heart immediately knew the truth.

This was a time for kindness beyond expectation. Sharing part of our life journey together, we both experienced new life and new growth. We both look back on that time with gratitude.

I pray that each of us will receive the grace to listen, carefully, for our particular invitation. Though it might take some time, may we also experience the joy of looking back, deeply grateful that our efforts were abundantly blessed.

Brenda Merk Hildebrand            

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