Lent approaches with a different urgency this year. My life, in many ways, continues to improve. Yet, more now than ever, my life is a whirling tempest.
My wife and I have dealt with the impact that serious illness can have on a family. Thankfully, that illness has not been borne by either my wife, my children or by me. This, however, proves to be some of the difficulty. Is it worse to be the person suffering or the person going through the suffering with you? Suffice to say, when someone is seriously ill in a family, everyone suffers. The pain of finding a “new normal” is experienced by all; still, I imagine it must alienate the afflicted more than those that love the afflicted. This pains me, because I understand the sense of alienation that my wife and I have felt through it all and cannot wrap my mind around how to deal with it being worse. As I articulate those feelings, there is a certain sense of shame that arises – how selfish I must be to wallow in my own feelings while another suffers. But, I think that is the point, when we all participate in the suffering, we all feel the pain, and it would be wrong of me not to weed out the roots of selfishness and bitterness by examining closely how I feel.
My discernment for vocation and calling in the Church continues; and, while peace abounds in the process, the decisions God calls me to make put me at odds with very many important people in my life. There is no doubt that my spiritual life has been transformed. As my perspective grows, though, the tensions I have with certain ideologies and practices grow as well. I perceive that some of these tensions will bloom into outright contentions. Contentions that will cost me relationships and alliances. In short, faithfulness to Christ and his Church are going to drive some wedges in my life. While that is a situation that is prescribed by Christ in the Gospels, it is no less painful. I can see how some, after hearing the call, “Come, follow me” turned in sorrow. We tend to shake our heads in disappointment at these characters, but I think they knew as well as any what was at stake. How do we deal with loyalty and with faithfulness? Apparently, being loyal is to be commended, but being loyal to the wrong thing or person is folly.
Consequently, this season of repentance takes on a starkly corporate reality for me, meaning I feel more prominently my role in the corporate body. In the past, Lent has had a personal tone. In the past, I have been turned inward for the sake of purging a personal indulgence that prevented me from being faithful to my vows. This year, I feel the Holy Spirit driving me to purge weakness of heart. Some of us need to examine the ways in which we are happy to compromise the Gospel for the sake of ease. It is a simple thing to believe we have the “right answer” and then to sever ties with people that disagree. It is a much different thing continually and faithfully to engage people that disagree with us in love. We have grown weary in accountability, well – at least, I have. Lord, give me the strength to do the hard work of the Gospel. Give me the strength in affliction real or perceived to love as you loved on the cross.