Lent and The Undiscovered Country: Hope
Since we have been justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained access by faith
to this grace in which we stand,
and we boast in hope of the glory of God.
— Romans 5:1-2
Lent is a 40 day season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends at sundown on Holy Thursday. It’s a period of preparation to celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection at Easter. During Lent, we seek the Lord in prayer by reading Sacred Scripture; we serve by giving alms; and we practice self-control through fasting. We are called not only to abstain from luxuries during Lent, but to a true inner conversion of heart as we seek to follow Christ’s will more faithfully. We recall the waters of baptism in which we were also baptized into Christ’s death, died to sin and evil, and began new life in Christ.
—“What is Lent?” U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Kyrie Eleison down the road that I must travel
Kyrie Eleison through the darkness of the night
— “Kyrie” John Lang
Lent is, as the Bishops’ commentary notes, the time for giving, and for receiving grace, and prepare for the ultimate act of love, Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection.
I believe Lent is also the time, with a reference to the “Star Trek” film, which borrowed from Hamlet, to seek faith, hope, and love: “the undiscovered country”.
There is the worldly version of these three that St. Paul references in his other writings. We gather as community to worship together, to celebrate and mourn, to share and to listen, to listen for the “tiny whisper”, as did Elijah as related in the Book of Kings, when the Lord passed by the cave where he waited in hope for a sign.
As humans, we wait and we long for the joy that we feel when we are confident we have found love and want to share love and encourage others. We have the faith that we are on the right path and that the answers lie ahead. But, sometimes, the answer brings more questions. And, we find what we had sought is not what the Lord has intended. Yet we listen, and pray, and stay on the path He has designated for us. Whatever the outcome, He is with us on this earthly journey. We repay that love with our giving, our empathy, and the daily joys that ultimately come back to reward us.
We ask for His help, we (perhaps inwardly) cry out for the losses we have endured to this point in our life, but we also know that our pain is temporal, joy is forever.
Consider the term “the undiscovered country”. We arrive at its entrance, which seems forbidding. We cautiously enter and are surrounded by vines, rocks, hills, valleys, seemingly insurmountable hills and yawning valleys. Where am I? How will I get out? I am afraid. I am lost. God help me!
And the light shines from afar, leading us to our goal. The discovery of the love, hope, and joy like no other.
That, to me, is the journey of Lent, to the Resurrection, the goal of exploring our “undiscovered country”.