Outside the window where I sit each morning for my daily prayers and meditation, the birds have been gradually picking clean the tree that has offered them without fail, through harshest cold and deepest snow, a feast of berries. Little red juicy morsels, held out for them, at the ends of a thousand tiny twigs, like Francis of Assisi himself.
Where would we be without the seasons?
Our gospel lessons cautions us against ostentatious piety, the kind of religious or spiritual practice meant to persuade others or even ourselves of our goodness or our deserving. Rather, it speaks about a kind of simplicity, an observance that plainly sounds our true nature and our true need, and that acknowledges simply that source of our most basic provisions—that of daily bread and right relation, of reconciliation with God, our neighbors and ourselves.
Thus is this season of Lent, a time of refrain and reflection, honed over centuries out of an ever-increasing culture of busy-ness and distraction, of rushing and rending, offered to us like juicy berries, our sustenance in the middle of strife and struggle. In fact, not only our sustenance, but yes, even our salvation.
Let this time of deprivation be for our good. Let this short six-week season of separations save us, ever so slightly, from ourselves, and restore in us the joy of sheer dependence on God’s moment-by-moment provisions.
May we feast on God’s goodness even in the barest of times, so that we may be conditioned to hear and see and smell and taste the news—the good news—of life in death, of light in darkness, of feast in famine as the ever so subtle, gentle, and sure turning of the seasons.