Tomorrow another Lenten season begins. Last year, the season seemed markedly different from previous Lents. The world was in the grip of a pandemic and people everywhere were forced to give up more than what they ever considered as a Lenten sacrifice. Despite what appeared to be insurmountable odds, followers of Christ endured 40 days, hoping the time of trial caused by the pandemic would end quickly. Unfortunately, a whole year later, we are still under its control and face another Lent that will require greater than usual sacrifice.
The question this year is what will this Lent bring and how should we approach it? After an entire year of suffering, can we persevere through another 40 days?
Many people have lost loved ones in this pandemic. Many are in despair, wondering when or if it will ever end. Hope is harder to hold onto when there seems to be no end in sight. However, this is not the first time the world has been asked to wait on the Lord. Noah, for example, had to wait much longer than we have for his period of trial to end. Years passed with no sign of progress outside the ark, yet Noah continued to stay true to the Lord and kept his faith.
Times of suffering are not meant to break us but to strengthen us. This is why Lent is such an integral part of our Catholic liturgical year. When we participate in this period of going without, we are entering into Christ’s own passion. Christ came into the world to die, making the greatest sacrifice possible. Although we may never be able to experience exactly what Jesus went through before Calvary, we can try to imitate Him in this penitential season, asking Him to enter our hearts and provide us with the strength not to give up.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus questions His disciples, “ Do you still not understand?” Perhaps He is now asking us the same question. We have undergone a year of incredible pain and the conditions that caused it remain. Most people are hoping for an end to these trials, but that might not be what we should be seeking. God may want us to look deeper into the current situation of our world. Suffering is a key part of being human and what brings us closer to God. Do we still not understand?