Laetare Monday

rejoiceIt has been a long winter, hasn’t it? And a long Lent, or so it seems to me. The weather was a real challenge this year; recent milder winters had lulled me into a cheery complacency about what snow and cold truly meant in upstate New York. And I say that knowing that those in the the mid-Atlantic states further south had it much worse! Hard to think about rejoicing, right?

Add to that, starting in October, and never (gratefully) with anything life-threatening, but I have been in the near constant care of doctors for one thing or another. I get it, I’m 56, and I have not always taken care of my corpus very well, but much like the winter, this all came as a startling and repeatedly disturbing challenge. Let it suffice to say that I think that I may finally be turning the corner into, God willing, some better health. That’s why I am calling this Laetare Monday!

Our Lenten journey is meant to be one of the kind of serious prayer and introspection that leads to change. This is not the navel gazing of my earlier years, when a faux seriousness pervaded my being, but was not very deep or authentic; I was young, wounded, and very afraid. Today I am older, still wounded, somewhat afraid, but decidedly more realistic now that I have landed hard on my bottom more than once during life.Ouch!

My delusions still trouble me, as we can see, as I imagine upstate winters free of cold and snow, a life without illness. Between the weather and my health, Lent was off to a roaring start for me. Being sick meant that I was not really going anywhere, work notwithstanding, so I had more time and less distraction to spend in thought and prayer. Such quiet time might mean that I was doing a lot of writing, but that was not the case, in fact, I think that one of my allergies that was kicking up was to writing. It did not make me break out in hives, but it felt best to avoid it.

Even the Simpson's car is liturgically correct for this week!

Even the Simpson’s car is liturgically correct for this week!

The Laetare moment in the journey is when we have that sense that we are closer to our goal than before. Laetare is meant to communicate joyfulness. Now being good Christians, our “goal,” such as it is, is the Cross, and yes the Cross is joyful because it leads us to the Resurrection of Easter. Laetere Sunday, with its rose colored vestments and a Gospel about blindneess healed is meant to say, “Hey- we are getting somewhere!” It’s hardly the same as Gaudete Sunday in Advent, but it has the same kind of intent as a corner is turned.

Two things about this Lent strike me. One is about how easy it is to not be aware of our own sinfulness. Regrettably, in these times, sin has become code for sex or murder. OK, I am exaggerating, but I can think of the many times in my life when I felt like I had not “done anything wrong.” (*insert deep sigh here*) The second is related and is about how feeling OK, does not mean we are OK at all.

Today I want to laugh as I think of sex as sin, and that is not to make light of sex or sin. We love to highlight the “big” stuff and ignore the daily and insidious nature of sin. Sin is essentially turning away from God, in ways large and small. I may not be doing crazy things, but it seems to me that I have turned turning away from God into high art. It may be the only thing I do consistently and with precision. All sorts of little lies, denials, delusions, and omissions are the “spice” of this sinner’s life. Phew, it was exhausting to consider, which is kind of what my health crisis led me to do. We are an incarnational people indeed; my body’s challenges became the window to clearing up some blindness about sin.

Sadly, I don’t have anything juicy to reveal to you. Mostly I am just skittering across the surface with my ordinary, boring, but ever-present distractions from God. And I say this as a person whose life is allegedly ordered around God, through both my daily work in a parish, as well as my larger work as a writer. It is not as if I am completely ignoring or disregarding God, but wow, for someone immersed in all of this, I have a long way to go! And so it is for most of us, which leads me to my next point…

Back to my illness for a moment. Much of it centered around breathing problems, asthma, most specifically. More often than not, I feel the wheezing in my upper chest, and mostly in my throat. During one visit, with flourish and agitation, I kept saying to the to the urgent care doctor, “All of my wheezing is in my throat!” He replied, moving the stetheoscope around my back, and with some attitude of his own, “Your lungs sound awful, all I hear is wheezing!” That shut me right up.

cluelessHonestly, I had no clue that my lungs were in any distress; I had zero awareness of any wheezing there. None – zero – zip. But apparently my lungs were a mess, and it was nothing but wheezing. Now, as my treatments continued to progress, and the congestion and inflammation in my lungs began to loosen and improve, I could tell that there was a lot of yuck in there. Eeew. My poor lungs had been in distress for so long, that I had lost the ability to tell that there was anything wrong.

If that’s not a good metaphor for ordinary daily sin, I do not know what is.

None of this is meant to be a diatribe about how terribly sinful we are. Or that if we follow a set of prescribed rules and do them all perfect well, we will be fine and Jesus will now love us.

Guess what, none of us us ever going to get it all right all the time, that is not the point. And just following the rules leaves the heart out of it, and it is our hearts that God is after. Not to mention, our behavior is always in response to God’s call… We can’t “make” ourselves better for God. Where does that leave God? God does all the work, we simply respond.

So what is this exceedingly long and poorly self-edited piece supposed to be saying? I’m not exactly sure and it is my work, but let’s go with this.

  • Lent is long, things get worse before they get better, but they do get much better.
  • Instead of worrying about the really big stuff, how can we find ways to be more mindful and attentive to God’s presence in our lives?
  • Is there something, however small, that we can change in our daily living?

This is no easy answer, it is a matter of lather-rinse-repeat, not only every Lent, but kind of all the time. Not that I would know!

Anyway, it is my Laetare Monday. I feel some joy, and I wish some to you as well. May spring come, and may our journey to Jerusalem be rich with life and hope, not rife with despair.

970992_10152306293894233_290989403_nAnd stay tuned, there will be another post tomorrow, on Tuesday. What? Silence and then two in a row? Yes, tomorrow will be the source of real joy – I am reviewing James Martin SJ’s new book Jesus, A Pilgrimage.  Not only that, but a copy will be given away. See you tomorrow with the review and more details.

Thanks to all for being here with me. May our Lenten journey continue!


3 thoughts on “Laetare Monday

  1. Peeking into and owning up toour inner most sins is extremely hard process.
    As one of our women’s groups is reading My Life with the Saints by James Martin, SJ, I am curious and anxious to hear about his newest book. What a treat it would be to win it.


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