On Wednesday we will begin the season of Lent. These 40 days are a gift that the Church gives us each year: a chance to remember who we really are, and where it is that we are going.
Franciscan Father Richard Rohr shares a story about a young couple putting their newborn infant to bed for the night in the nursery. Their four-year-old son comes in and says to them, “I want to talk to the baby!” They answer him, “Yes, you can talk to him from now on.” But the boy is persistent, “Please, Mommy and Daddy, I want to talk to him now, and by myself.”
Surprised and curious, they let the young boy into the nursery and cup their ears to the door, wondering what he might be saying. This is what they heard their four-year old son say to his baby brother, “Quick, tell me where you came from. Quick, tell me who made you. I’m starting to forget!”
And so is it with each of us.
When God made you and me he embraced each of us like a mother would bundle up a beloved child to go out into the cold for the very first time. And like a parent might slip a little identification note into a child’s pocket, just in case he or she should get lost, God put a little tiny piece of himself inside of us. That little piece of God inside of you and me and every person who has ever lived is our immortal soul. And life, life, is the journey of our soul back home to its loving Creator.
But something happens on that journey, usually around the age of seven, the age of reason. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, we eat from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and we become self-conscious. We get distracted by many kinds of fruit: the approval of others, the attraction of things, the desire for possessions, and the need for control. And we start to forget. We lose touch with our soul and with God.
Father Rohr calls this condition ‘Universal Amnesia’. We have forgotten who we really are and where it is that we are going. Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent are meant to remind us that we are children of God on our journey home.
As followers of Jesus we have the benefit of a map for that journey. That map is the Gospel. Jesus lays it out in detail in the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes. And when the Pharisees asked him what they must do to gain eternal life, he summed it up for them and for us: “Love God with your whole heart and your whole mind and your whole soul, and love others — love others — as you love yourself.”
This Lent, as we sacrifice some little pleasures, some things we really enjoy, let us remember who we really are and where it is that we are going. Let us sit before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and ponder how well we are following his map in the Gospel. And let us do this quickly before we, like that little four-year old boy, start to forget.
Readers of this blog might enjoy these books by Deacon Lex. Both are available on Amazon.com:
Just to Follow My Friend: Experiencing God’s Presence in Everyday Life
Synchronicity as the Work of the Holy Spirit: Jungian Insights for Spiritual Direction and Pastoral Ministry