Before very much longer, we will all welcome the new life and warmth heralding spring. The seeds made possible by the death of last year's growth, will expand into the fullness of life and with them will come the other elements of new life in that wonderfully ordered world of birds and animals. Every year there is this new beginning this fresh start.
It would appear, at first glance, that there is no spring season for us. No fresh start. In this context, we seem to be outside of nature, an observer. We are influenced by nature's cycles. But not controlled by them. We, unlike the tree or the sparrow, can choose. Procreating, nourishing, sheltering, all involve a choice, a decision. For us to be reborn in spring requires a decision too, and interestingly enough, it requires the decision to die. To make room for the new life... just like the rest of nature!
That is why Lent is so important each year. It is the time during which we are called upon to go through a kind of death so that, like from the seed in the ground, new life may emerge in spring... on Easter day. Yes indeed, we are all within nature's plan. And that is because nature is but the expression of the creator’s mind and so we speak, in the same breath, of the hatching of the robin, the first crocus, and the liturgy of Easter morning. Whether through blind instinct or free choice... still, new life... nature's plan, God's design.
The church's calendar of annual feasts and seasons is not, therefore, a contrived way of doing things. It is as natural as summer, fall, rain and wind.
Saint Paul, in speaking of baptism, makes use of the “life through death” image which is so central to the passion of Christ. Just as the seed dies to produce the plant, just as Jesus died in giving birth to the church, so in baptism, it can be said that we died in order to be reborn. This death is, of course, a partial death to self so that there may be significant room for Christ in our lives.
Those of you who understand the commitment of marriage from personal experience will appreciate this same analogy as being operative where you have had to die, more than just a little, to self in order to make room for the intimate presence of the other.
So, Lent should be seen as that time of the year, when in preparation for the new life of Easter, we re-examine and reinforce our Baptismal attitude... in other words, our death to self; so as to remain in harmony with creation.
Now what does all this mean in practical terms for you? Frankly, I don't know. You must decide for yourself how all of this applies to you. I can't do that for you. It is too personal. But lest you be tempted to forget it and not make the effort... remember that the degree to which you share in the Spring, in the renewed life of Easter, will depend upon how much room you make for Jesus. In this season of preparation, may the Holy Spirit guide and inspire you.