By Ricardo Márquez
Amid the indignation, terror and sadness that we feel at seeing the images of an absurd war, driven by the push for imperial power, the season of Lent, the 40 days of preparation to enter once more the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus, has a special meaning for us.
We are not living in “normal” times, even if we decide to drop our face masks and tell ourselves that the pandemic is over, and we silence the news.
The worst blind man is one that does not want to see. In numerous countries, where the majority of the population lives in poverty, the illness continues its deadly march. It seems like humanity needs to experience the boundaries of our self-destruction to wake up, to reach the abyss and to transform itself.
The readings from the liturgical celebrations of this season have moved me more than on previous occasions. It helps me to think that the reading of the day has a message just for me, for my community, for the Church and the world, in the here and now.
“Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart …” (Joel 2:12).
“Return to the Lord, your God, for He is gracious and merciful …” (Joel 2:13)
“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil …” (Deuteronomy 30:15)
It’s never too late to change. Today can always be the new day to awaken from the slumber induced by our screens, to liberate ourselves from our addictions, from the newscasts that poison our days starting in the morning, as the Argentine songwriter Facundo Cabral tells us.
This season is an invitation to look inward, to re-orient our desires and intentions, to search for the hidden treasure of the “kingdom,” for fraternity and for peace.
Hope lies in remembering that it’s not important where we are, nor the errant decisions we might have made in the past. What is important is to feel, when we’re at the abyss, that our Creator, the source of life and our lives, is compassionate and merciful.
The rituals and liturgical celebrations of this season can remain superficial, in tradition and obligation, or they can be the occasion to let ourselves be changed by what they signal, a transformation of the heart, of feelings and conduct. Religiosity that solely remains in the formality of rituals annihilates the spirit that moves it.
The goal of religions, Catholicism in particular, is to create the conditions for the personal encounter with the mystery we call “God,” who, according to the faith that the apostles handed down to us, became flesh in Jesus and lives in the Holy Spirit in each of us.
That is the mystery of the faith that we profess, that we are invited to live in our lives. To contemplate it and enter in it is what transforms us. The road, truth and life lie in Jesus’s message; that’s why to read it and meditate over it is “ecstasy” for us. It’s a message that shakes us out of our daily routines, moves us to take risks of love and service, and transforms our gaze to see God in everything, in nature, the sky, people, the sick and the incarcerated, the despised and marginalized.
That is the great paradox of our faith: A man sentenced to death by the authorities of His time revealed the immensity of a mystery of love, and ever since then, the immensity of His essence, which is love, is revealed to us in what humanity judges as insignificant. Paul expressed this from the depths of his soul: Some ask for proof, others for wisdom, “but we proclaim a Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (Corinthians 1:23).
This season of passion and resurrection invites us to soak in, to contemplate and be touched by this mystery. And, in so doing, we can experience a transformation of the heart … and, from this transformation, will spring actions that can heal, unite and love.
Ricardo Márquez is associate director of the Diocese of San Diego’s Office for Family Life and Spirituality.