I actually began Lent by attending my aunt’s funeral, which was held on Thursday, February 14, the day after Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day, which put a strange spin on the occasion. The funeral had been planned quickly, just two days before, and a lot of us in the church had just taken off work or gotten off planes in order to get there.
The priest’s homily focused on Lent and the idea of “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”–a fairly appropriate concept for a funeral. As he continued his homily, though, he encouraged all of us to see my aunt’s life as something that was cyclical rather than linear, something that did not end but was rather fulfilled by returning to its beginning. It really made me stop and think. Just the day before, I’d been reading Facebook statuses about the different things people were giving up. The Lenten season appears to be a season of endings, which isn’t true at all. The word “lent” actually translates into “spring,” which is the opposite of a season of ending. Lent is a season of renewal.
I began to look for the cycles within my own life. What endings did I see that could actually be fulfillment, a cycle closing only to start again, endings that were really beginnings or continuations? I looked around the room and realized that I was sitting among some of the people who had first known and shaped me in my life, the people that had taken care of me when I was younger and helped raise me. These people had gathered every night after my aunt had died and prayed for her. These people had such commitment and faith, and they had helped shape my own faith life. In the middle of my aunt’s life ending, I felt inspired and renewed: a renewed commitment to faith and such gratitude for the community that had helped me grow.
This Lent, I challenge you to find beginnings in endings. I hope that you not only see the sacrifice in Lent but also the hope and renewal of the season.