Holding and Being Held
Today is the second Sunday in Lent, and we continue our way to the Cross. It is true that the tone of Lent is introspective — that is, it encourages us to look within our history, consider our worship life, and examine our inner state: our sins and shortcomings, what we do and what we neglect to do. We also look toward the Cross as we seek forgiveness, and toward the coming Resurrection as our source of power for future service.
In Lent we may be led to evaluate ourselves more than at any other time of the year. And so, it is helpful to set aside moments when we ask God to examine us, seeking clarity and honesty in light of the Cross and the Resurrection.
As Christians we cannot afford to have illusions about ourselves or others in our lives. Our sense of history, our teachings about humanity, should lead us to be, above all, realistic. This means not expecting to achieve paradise or perfection tomorrow — or even at the end of a period of penitence and devout practice. But neither should we despair of our present situation, especially in light of the mighty acts of God that we have seen accomplished in the past.
Lent ideally helps us to achieve a balance that is born of historical perspective and human honesty. Above all, we take these weeks seriously as a time to grow in self-understanding and prepare for a genuine response to God.
John Keble, one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement in Great Britain, also said in a sermon entitled “The Disappointments of Our Lord”: “Now as Christ exhibits to us all other features of God’s character, so this among them, that he respects our freedom” — even to the extent of allowing himself to be rejected by those he came to save. “He says, ‘How often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings’” — meaning: “Do you know how anxious I am, how much I care for your souls? How truly I wish to hold you and assure you?” Part of our honesty and openness toward our Lord in Lent can be seen as an answer to his generous offer to comfort and hold us through the coming storm. Will we accept this most tender aspect of Jesus’ care for us—now, here, today?
David Vryhof, SSJE (the Cowley Fathers), wrote: “Give yourself wholeheartedly to the One who has given himself for you, holding nothing back. Love as you have been loved — freely, boundlessly, and unconditionally, with no expectation of reward. The great paradox is that by losing our lives in this way we gain them. This is the way to freedom, this is the way to joy, this is the way to life — eternal life, abundant life.”