The word Lent – at least in English – comes from the Old English lencten which may have been influenced by the Dutch word lente or lentin. These words all mean “spring time” or “spring season.” They may also be related to the word “lengthen” or to make longer – which is precisely what is happening to the amount of sunshine we get in the Northern Hemisphere during this time. The days are getting longer as we move towards spring.
So it is appropriate to think of Lent, not just as a season of 40 days, but also, as it has been called by others “the springtime of our souls.”
What a beautiful image for us to meditate on in these first days of our Lenten journey! Often, especially us Catholics, can get very dour about Lent. It is a penitential season after all; it seems we should feel properly penitential. But if we think of Lent as springtime for our souls, we tap into what the Eucharistic Prayers of the Mass remind us is “a joyful season” in which we prepare to have “our minds and hearts renewed.”
So, in this season of spiritual reflection and discipline, we are being invited to reflect on what we are doing with our lives and how God’s Spirit might be urging us to newness of vision and hopefulness.
How are our souls brightening, bursting forth in life as we move through this time of spiritual preparation for Easter? What newness is seeking to be born in us?
It can be hard after a long time of suffering and a dark and difficult winter, especially for those who have lost loved ones or those close to them from COVID over the past year to feel this newness or to embrace it.
But, always faithful, God gives us the perspective and the power we need to move us forward on our journey to deeper faith and deeper union.
In today’s readings, God speaks to us through the prophet Isaiah and reminds us of how we come to this newness of spirit. It is a veritable checklist of doing charity and justice – of caring for others. And it is a good checklist to remind ourselves of, especially now:
- Remove oppression and lies
- Feed the hungry
- Care for the afflicted
- Repair the breaches / the brokenness of our lives and our relationships
- Restore to prominence in our lives the goodness we have let slide away
- Put the work of God at the center our lives
Rather than doing something temporary and impermanent for Lent, like giving up chocolate, coffee, or something we enjoy, this is a checklist we might even print out and keep at our prayer table and return to during this season. We can use it to remind ourselves what we might do each day to really make this springtime of our souls one that changes and transforms us.
The Gospel show us that Jesus is the physician of our hearts, minds and souls. He brings the healing mercy of God to all who follow him. So, when we fail at some of the items on our Lenten checklist, we know that he is with us to inspire and motivate us forward and to fill in all the gaps with God’s ever present amazing grace! Indeed, we are reminded that God is especially close to those most in need of that grace, including so many who are brokenhearted at the losses we have endured this past year.
So, may this Lent, this springtime of our souls, be for us a “lengthening” of light in our lives as we journey towards Holy Week, and the promise of new life which Easter brings.
God give you peace!
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As Director of Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), I have the opportunity to record video reflections on the readings of the Scriptures proclaimed at daily Mass. I do so as part of larger group of colleagues at the Conference, along with lay and ordained leaders from around the country. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the readings for the life of faith today and to share them here, along with the written text of the reflections. To view these video reflections for past and upcoming celebrations of the Eucharist, visit the USCCB website.