Transformation. Lent, from the first ashes to the final bursts of light, is about transformation, becoming better than had been and more than was. It is about discovering the singularity and the commonalities of personhood. And the truth of that is found in the footsteps of Jesus.
His journey, wrapped in the narratives of the Evangelists, can be read and interpreted on multiple levels. But there is a compellingly human dimension to it as well. Simply and powerfully, Jesus grapples with identity, with choices and actions that define his humanity and the world and institutions, the historical context, he was born into. As an adult person, he learns about himself and others, struggling to define who He is and what He is about within that world. He accepts help, takes risks, invites others, knows both friendship and rejection, grapples with multiple views and perspectives. He seeks, continually, and sometimes he chooses to be apart. Sometimes, he is trapped. Always, he is conscious of others….and sometimes he can help. The Gospel stories, seen as a process, are also a becoming. Jesus is becoming who he really is.
Essentially, these weeks of Lent are an invitation to walk through that process, to become who we really are and to focus on becoming better persons, to find the uniqueness of singularity and the substance of commonality with others. Ours is a journey bound by 21st century conventions and jargon, edged by skepticism and hidden by the marvels of technology. But it is no less a journey than Jesus’, and His is one to be learned from.
Lent, more than a burden of repentance or remorse, is about learning again who we are and what we are called to. The very tradition of ashes speaks of the humility of that: none of us had the power to choose to be here, and yet here we are brought into existence by something other than self. But within that, each one of us is learning at every stage of life. Like Jesus, we choose.
Like Jesus, we seek the more, the better self. Circumstances and context may vary wildly, but the search goes on for a place in this world, for friends and for meaning, for deeper understanding. His journey was not linear and did not involve the acquisition of power. Instead, it was about being who He was created to be. And in the ignominy of the Cross, that was revealed and understood. Still, he did not shrink from the suffering or vengefully strike at the betrayer.
Lent is the chance to take time to look at the journey, at the past and the present. It is a time to consider the possibility of transformation, of growth. It is about daring to define personal identity in the context of now, and finding the courage to face what is. It is about choosing actions that make a difference in the lives of others. Lent is about becoming who we really are; it is about making conscious choices to become a better person. It is about remembering what Jesus’ journey pointed to: what is held in common outweighs what is not, and transformation, growth, is possible.