You might think I’m a little crazy for saying this, but here goes: I can’t wait for Lent to get here. It’s late in coming this year because Easter is late as well. We already have daffodils blooming this week, but we won’t begin Lent until March 1, which is Ash Wednesday. There’s something appropriate about Lent in late winter, when it’s still cold and icy and nothing seems to point to spring. Lots of folks experience Lent as a time of deprival and withdrawal, which goes along with those dreary winter days. But this year things will be different, at least here in the South. It looks like we’ll be making our Lenten journey wearing flip-flops.
And maybe that’s what we need this year. Maybe we need a Lent that seems a little less of a forced march and a little more like a walk in the garden. I think we deserve it after the last few months we’ve had, don’t you? This year, I’m seeking silence. I want and need time to shut out all the noise of the world and rest. I need interior silence; silence of the heart. I’ll be making some changes to insure that I get that silence, too. More unscheduled time, less online time. More prayer time, less social time. More alone time, less “busy-ness.”
There’s a wonderful quote by St. Augustine (354-430 AD) that helps me keep my focus each Lent: “God means to fill each of you with what is good, so cast out what is bad! If He wishes to fill you with honey and you are full of sour wine, where is the honey to go? The vessel must be emptied of its contents and then cleansed.” Each Lent we’re tasked with examining our hearts, and our lives in order to seek out that “sour wine” which is keeping us from receiving the fullness of God’s grace. That’s why some people give up their attachments to favorite foods or drinks or other distractions from God. They hope to use these little sacrifices as a way of decluttering their lives.
For me, the surest way I know to hear the voice of the Lord is to spend time in silence. These days, that’s so very difficult. It’s easy enough to turn off the television but harder to disconnect from the phone and the computer. Even more difficult is finding the quiet inside our hearts, which can be pulled in so many ways by the demands of family, work and our other commitments. Cardinal Robert Sarah calls these “the dictatorship of noise.” Our modern lives are often ruled by the chatter of media and we rarely allow ourselves to be immersed in solitude and quiet. Unless we enter into that interior silence the whisper of God’s voice is too-often lost in all that background noise. That’s the gift of Lent—a season given to us each year which invites us to slow down, take time, turn off, and listen.
Lent is coming and I pray that my journey to Easter will be like those warm, quiet afternoon walks that Adam and Eve shared with our Lord in the Garden. I need to spend time in silence with God, to pare down everything in my life that distracts me from Him. My vessel has become full of sour wine and I long for the honey of His consolation and friendship. I pray that everyone reading this will embrace the gift of this Lenten season and make the time to walk in silence with the Lord. Springtime is here and your flip-flops are waiting. Don’t miss it!
“The greatest difficulty of modern man is to search for God in silence.”
—-Cardinal Robert Sarah