For many years I was chaplain to a high school in St Helens. Every Monday we had Mass in the chapel and each Thursday lunchtime I would meet with anyone who wanted to plan the following week’s liturgy. One of the boys who came to the group was Jamie. He was sensitive, artistic and creative. The chapel group was a place where he felt accepted.
One particular week we met as usual and the Gospel passage we were reflecting on was the one where the Pharisees demand a sign from heaven to test Jesus. Jamie sat with a pad doodling away. Eventually I asked him what he thought and he showed us his pad. He had drawn a caricature of a Pharisee in his robes and Jesus standing before him. Underneath the drawing were the words: ‘What else did they want?’
Lent is a time when we are invited to reflect on the ‘what else we might want’ that gets in the way of following Jesus and finding real life within. It is a willingness to open ourselves to God and to say that we are ready to let that which is dead within, the dross that so often fills us, be healed and transformed so that we might experience a deep inner freedom and follow him more fully.
Lent is a season for each of us to remember that God is at work silently inside us, to not just wear ashes for one day and then wash their meaning off, but in many senses – as Ronald Rolheiser says – ‘to sit in the ashes’, refusing to live as we usually do with our ego needs at the fore of our lives. It is a season for waiting while some silent growth takes place within us, for simply being still and trusting that God can work in us so that we experience some sort of resurrection at the end of the 40 days.