Lent: A Lingering Shadow

“Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him. For that will mean life for you.” – Deut. 30:19-20

Sometimes Lent sneaks up on us. Other times, the dying with Christ has been lurking behind us like a lingering shadow, just waiting for the right moment to jump out and spook us.

I begin my Lent grieving.

My Ordinary Time has been filled with recurring illnesses, countless altered plans, and a sense of helplessness. As Lent neared, I began to feel a sense of foreboding. Lord, I have already been emptied … what more can be emptied from me?

This morning I am flying to St. Louis to attend the funeral Mass of an incredible Jesuit.  He was the third family friend to die within a 24-hour span. This 87-year-old former Provincial stormed heaven alongside a Holocaust survivor and a 36-year-old young man who battled Cerebral Palsy and cancer.

In the past week, the memories of humility and self-sacrifice of Fr. Costello, lovingly known as “Cos,” keep surfacing. Like the time I once texted Fr. Cos (not knowing the octogenarian had no idea how to send a text on his flip phone), and he labored to send me back a response. The word “okay” (albeit misspelled) was not just a text, but his humble attempt to communicate in whatever way he could.

My fondest memory of him though, was being with him after he had heard the confessions of second graders at the parish school. He was so deeply moved by their simple sins of fighting with their siblings and talking back to their parents. He held these Confessions up as sacred and holy, moved almost to tears as he recounted their earnest desires to know and love God.

Rather than focusing on “giving up” something, I have felt God’s subtle invitation to sit with the pain, grief, and loss instead of rushing to put it in a box. I have felt God gazing at me with the same look that Cos had on his face and exclaiming, “It was just the most beautiful, precious thing.”

Is God inviting me to be gentle with myself today?
What happens when I imagine a God who loves me (and my sins) as if they were precious relics?

 Jen Coito

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