Over the last couple of weeks I have been traveling for ministry. I have criss-crossed several paths and have met people from all walks of life. Traveling as an itinerant preacher allows for a few challenges (winter-road conditions, technological difficulties) and many blessings (an unexpected oasis, long visits, even time for family). The days were filled from morning to night with either final preparations, set up, conversations, meeting people and moments for prayer (not in my regular pattern) and each was blessed in so many ways. Each night as I laid down for sleep my heart was full of gratitude and praise.
The season of Lent began while I was on this preaching tour. It is always interesting to be out of one’s regular circumstances of life for Ash Wednesday. I have once been in DisneyWorld (still made it to Mass) and this year saw me back in my hometown – a place I have not been for Ash Wednesday since probably the late 90’s. The day included travel, faith sharing and evening Mass (which even saw me distributing ashes to family, friends and neighbours). It is the faith sharing moment of the day that gave shape and has launched my season of Lent.
After preaching four back to back parish Lenten retreats, I was coming into Ash Wednesday a bit worn and wondering about how this season would take shape. My last blog framed the questions and reflections which I am going to continue to explore during Lent, but I was looking for something else? Something more? It clicked for me during the faith sharing.
On Ash Wednesday afternoon my Mom hosted a faith sharing group, which will continue to meet over the season of Lent. I was privileged and blessed to be part of their first gathering on this first day of Lent. The gathering consisted of all women. Most of these women have been a part of and have impacted my life since I was born and for those who have not been a part of my journey since birth they too have also impacted my life in other ways. It was a holy time; it was indeed sacred ground. The format for this faith sharing group is looking at the upcoming Sunday gospel. So at this first gathering we read, reflected and shared about the gospel story of the temptations of Christ.
I was drawn to the line “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4.1). This line speaks to me of the power of our baptism and the gift of being the beloved of God, for it reminds us that in baptism we too are filled with the Holy Spirit. It speaks of how we too are called to trust and that we do have the power to face temptations and trials. It reminds us that God is with us and in us – a part of our very DNA. It wasn’t until now days later that I can begin to put my finger on why that line stood out for me. It is because of the holiness of the time shared together and the holy ground on which I was privileged to be part of with these women of faith. As they shared stories about their journey, as they discussed Lenten plans and temptations they face, as they listened to each other, encouraged each other and even shed a tear or two they also were and are filled with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit was indeed present in the sharing and will continue to be in the weeks ahead. It was in their sharing and listening that I was reminded about the gift of the Holy Spirit present.
In this season of Lent you and me are also full of the Holy Spirit. This is my launching point for Lent, to walk into each day with a grateful heart and to embrace and acknowledge that the fullness of the Holy Spirit is at work in you and me. Instead of looking at Lent as a time which trudges along I now look at it with a fullness which can lead me closer to Christ and deepen my walk of faith. I am so grateful that I was able to be present for the faith sharing, these amazing and holy women have given me a great perspective for Lent – one I needed and for that I am thankful. As I pray, fast and give alms this Lent there must be a fullness present or these will be empty practices which lead to a unfulfilled Lent and I don’t want that.
As we enter this first week of Lent – I come at it with an awareness that the fullness of the Holy Spirit is indeed a gift and one that calls me and each one of us to deeper sharing, greater trust and a union with God and Christ Jesus. I once again am aware of the abundance of gratitude that fills my heart and the gift of sharing on the holy ground with the women of faith which kick-started my Lenten journey. (Thank you and thanks Mom!)
Lenten Blessings of peace and all good!