What did you learn in school today?
Once upon a time it was the most dreaded question at suppertime. At least in the day when families ate supper together. Almost every parent asked the question… but also knew they would probably have to drag it out of their child. Today the contemporary setting is more often in the car ride home, especially in middle-class America. The dreaded answer is often the same – “stuff” or “nothing”. Perhaps you might recognize how you answered when you were a child.
I was reminded of this question as I listened to an audio presentation by John Baldovin, SJ. He speaks of the spirituality of Lent as a process of conversion rather than an isolated or once-in-a-lifetime event. It led me to think about Lent as going to school.
In Lent, we think about what am I going to give up. The question really ought to be “what did I learn about God, myself, and my relationship with my sisters and brothers?”
Ashes remind us that we have a lot to learn
The season of Lent is a time to take a refresher or advanced course focused on living as disciples of Jesus. It is about putting on or learning the mind of Christ.
Now that is literally a lifetime task! Remember that Jesus’ spent three years preparing his early followers to understand and embrace God’s way of loving in this new world of the Kingdom of God. What does it really mean to understand and live as God’s sons and daughters, and sisters and brothers?
So Lent is learning what is dead and seeking resurrection and life. Lent is a wonderful season to look deep inside and identify what is dead that needs Christ’s life. What needs to die to our self-centeredness in order to enter into His resurrection.
The answer to the question “What did I learn in Lent” will be different for each one of us.
Personally, at this point in Lent, I am still being surprised how Jesus’ stories are “the gift that keeps on giving.”
Let me explain. In my head, I thought I knew the story of the Good Samaritan. But it seems as if I am learning it for the first time. (Isn’t that what a good story is about?)
I have known the power of Jesus’ stories. I did not begin Lent with the story of the “Good Samaritan” as my focus. But this Lent Pope Francis has invaded my consciousness. I am amazed when I read and reread Chapter 3 in his latest book “Fratelli Tutti”. He powerfully retells the story someone not to be trusted. (I now have begun think it might be called the “Bad Samaritan”).
I know the story well. I have preached on it often. But following his guidance, I have read and reread the story putting myself in the mindset of each person in the story. It looks and feels different each time I hear it from another vantage point… even that of the robbers!.
Also, I had never thought of Jesus using that story to tell us of what the Kingdom is like. He asked his hearers to imagine a “kingdom” characterized by people who instinctively saw even a wounded enemy as a neighbor.
In following chapters, he is inviting me to see beyond my nose. What does the story teach me about how we currently interact as a society. What would society look like if we took the story as a guide to how we structure our society.
What are you learning during this Lent?
Click below for an audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk