Welcome to the month of March when spring officially begins and Daylight Savings take place towards the end of month. Some commentators also say that this is the month of wild and shifting weather as Mother Nature tries to shed her winter coat.
For many in the Christian community, March is the season of Lent – a time of reflection and preparation. Lent is the period of 40 days before Easter which began on Ash Wednesday, 17th February. There, we marked our foreheads in ash from burnt palm crosses and olive oil to recognise that we came from dust and to dust shall we return. By observing 40 days of Lent, we copy Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days.
Lent is marked by fasting from food and festivities. Some people mark Lent by withdrawing from things like Facebook, some from chocolate and others from alcohol, just like the American Catholic Bar Owner who had Budweiser Light bottled Beer (low alcohol) in the shopping window. When asked why, he said that he only sells them in Lent!
With Lent being a season of reflection and preparation, why the solemn faces? We’re solemn to reflect Jesus’ deprivation in the wilderness and test of self-discipline. Some of us are solemn for other reasons. We are solemn out of personal bereavement in this pandemic, particularly, in view of January’s 100,000 deaths’ milestone and ongoing illnesses. Making the transition from a healthy outlook to the deprivation of Jesus during Lent may be frictionless for some. But the transition from a solemn place to the present is not without friction when loved ones are still being lost and long term illnesses remain present.
Our solemn faces sadly hide behind the masks we wear. Unseen faces mask our grief, pain and tears. But the Lord sees everything. Someone once said, “A smile is the lighting system of the face, the cooling system of the head and the heating system of the heart”. The challenge is how to maintain a smile against the background of grief, pain and sadness, all behind a mask.
We’re invited in the second Book of Corinthians (1st chapter) to note that comfort starts from within us, our heart. “Jesus Christ comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we’re able to share the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for our comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer.” Being comforted does not mean that our problems immediately disappear. We’re able to bear them a little while longer because of the deep ‘comfort’ wells in us. They enable us to sympathetically but repeatedly respond to the needs of others even when we have our personal challenges.
The bible reading from the sixth chapter of Hebrews cites: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure”. Our hope is secure, immovable, anchored in God, just as a ship’s anchor holds firmly to the seabed. To the true seeker who comes to God in belief is received an unconditional promise of acceptance. When we ask in openness, honesty, and sincerity to save us, He will do it. This truth should yield encouragement, assurance and confidence in us during these desperate times against mental health challenges, and as we reflect on the competing views of Coronavirus and its aftermath.
We are encouraged in the end to draw on the non-judgmental words of Jesus and focus on His way of living, praying and example, as we’re called to do. Also, to maintain support of the vulnerable and needy in our community, the hallmark of our Christian faith. Amen.
As our Lent Bible Studies have now begun, we hope you can join our remaining 1 hour Zoom sessions over the next four Tuesdays. Please get in touch. Study sessions are listed in this magazine’s centre pages. I look forward to seeing you.
Stay blessed with love
Reverend Rickey Simpson-Gray
Parish of the Claydons