John chapter 16, verse 32
Luke chapter 9, verse 28
The main themes of Lent are penance, suffering and death. Beginning with Ash Wednesday..."Remember you are dust and to dust you will return."...and continuing through to the last day, to the sombre and sorrowful passion and death of Jesus.
It is not easy to get into the proper spirit of Lent. The weather is dull. It is income-tax time and, in general, reasons for pessimism seem to abound. So being asked to meditate upon the themes of Lent might appear to be the final step in an effort to create the perfect scenario for mass psychological depression. But such a scenario would be deficient in so far as it would fail to include that element of joyful hope, which is the message of Easter.
On the night before He died, Jesus broke His apostle's hearts by saying to them: "You will all lose faith in me this night." (John, chapter 16, verse 32) You see, they had not been listening to Him. They did not want to think about the possibility of His suffering and dying and even less about what probably lay in store for them. They craved the crown but refused to even consider the cross. And so they did lose faith in Him that night.
I think that Lent is, in some way, a preparation for " that night" for us. A time when our liturgy confronts us with the realities of pain and worry, loss and insecurity, fear and doubt...death itself. For the most part, we are confronted in the abstract so that we can be better prepared for the concrete; prepared for " that night," whether it comes in the form of illness, death, poverty, desertion, or in any other guise.
Lent is then a time when we are confronted with our own vulnerability be it physical, moral or emotional. How do we handle this reality? Well, we can always try to insulate ourselves. Some people do that. They never visit a hospital, they avoid funerals, they look the other way when faced with a diseased or crippled person, and they keep away from homes for the aged. On the other hand, we can go to the opposite extreme by immersing ourselves in all that is painful and saddening to the point where we feel guilty if we laugh or enjoy. Pessimism and depression thus become a way of life. These are two extremes. Surely the balanced approach is to listen to Jesus of whom it was said: "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." (Luke Chapter 9, verse 28 ff) Listen then to Jesus who is God. Listen to Jesus who speaks to us as He did to His apostles, of times of trial, temptation, fear and anguish...times to which we are all subject; BUT SUBJECT WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF HOPE, REDEMPTION AND RECONCILIATION.
For all of us, "that night" will come. In fact, for many, it will be "those nights." We will not lose faith if we are realistic and prepare ourselves. Lent is ordered to this end. We will not lose faith if we keep before us the vision of the Transfiguration Of Our Lord, (same reference as above) and the whole Pascal Mystery which explodes before us joyfully and triumphantly on Easter Sunday. Christ has died, Christ is risen and will come again!