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Lent and COVID-19

By Sister Margie Klein
Marjorie Klein, SSND

As we begin this season of Lent, we may well find ourselves thinking, “Haven’t these last 12 months been one long Lenten road? Haven’t we been called to sacrifice, to fast/abstain, to pray, to reach out to care for others in ways we would never have imagined?!” Absolutely! We only now are catching glimpses of what may be an Easter resurrection once vaccinations build immunity and we can relax and breathe again.

So, what has COVID-19 taught us about the true meaning of Lent? How has the year 2020 given us pause to reflect on the Paschal Mystery in ways that are similar to our yearly Lenten and Holy Week journey? And what does that call us to today, as we enter a new Lenten season in 2021?

Abstaining and fasting we did: from shopping, from visiting, from hugs and embraces, from eating out and going to the gym, from gathering as family and friends, from Eucharist and coming together for prayer, from distracting ourselves with outside activities, from mindless interactions we soon forget. Instead, we learned to use what we had, to communicate with our eyes and by technology many of us never learned, to cook for ourselves and others, to pray in the midst of the pain and challenges of COVID-19, to reflect more and numb out less, to listen and respond to the needs of those around us. We learned to care more, to celebrate more about the little things and to be grateful for every little thing.

We prayed more because we came to know our own vulnerability and powerlessness in the face of an unseen virus that could destroy us in no time. We prayed for ourselves, our loved ones, and for strangers we would never meet and caregivers we hoped we would never need. Frankly, our prayer was far less arrogant and our attitude far humbler than a year ago when we felt invincible and on top of the world. We got more honest with God and with ourselves. For now, we knew that God was God and that we were not!

During these many months, we experienced all of the moments recalled in our Holy Week celebrations. We came to know that even those who ride in as king may be brought low – something we don’t always embrace as a possibility. We experienced medical professionals who taught us by their own example what it means to lay down your life for another, what washing feet can look like in the day to day, what it means to watch, as Mary did under the cross, as a loved one dies alone and perhaps feeling abandoned. We’ve experienced those Holy Saturday moments that go on forever as funerals must be delayed and grief cannot be held in the embrace of another.

Lent is a season of growth and transformation and is meant to move into a season of new life. Maybe our Lent this year will be a time of reflecting back to 2020, to this long Lent we have yet to end in order to uncover the growth and transformation we have known. What graces have been yours? What ways have you been asked to do as Jesus did? How have you been changed by COVID-19? Often lent is a time of stripping away the non-essentials in order to embrace what really matters. It is a time of fasting from that which satiates me so I fail to notice my hunger for God. It is a time of praying as if my life and yours and the life of our world depends on God’s grace and action in and through us. In so many ways, COVID-19 has done the stripping away, has awakened my hunger for things that really matter, and has invited me to sit before God in humility and trust. As we emerge from the pandemic, as we enter into this Lent, perhaps we are more ready than ever before for God’s grace to call us to more. May the more of our Lenten year behind us and the more of the Lent ahead of us give rise to a glorious Easter like no other!

 

Read more reflections from sisters on religious holidays.

 
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