This will be a Lent to remember.
Almost everyone has accepted the challenge of sacrifice.
You might say that all this self-denial and social concern wasn’t entirely free will. You might add that it had nothing to do with one’s relationship with God; just a response to fear and government mandate.
Still, we always start somewhere.
There is some historical connection between what is going on and the season in which it occurs.
The period of fasting, penance and almsgiving we call Lent is a physical recollection of the way in which Jesus prepared for His ministry with a 40-day fast in the desert, in the quarantena.
In the 17th-century, Italy was ravaged by the bubonic plague. Venice demanded that ships remain offshore for 40 days. This was the quarantina, which became our quarantine.
The length is believed to have been influenced by the Judeo-Christian tradition in which 40 represents a period of trial, chastisement and change.
There is something to be said for looking at our social quarantine as a Lenten experience. Not to diminish the immense suffering, there are good things happening behind closed doors.
There is a kind of fast with people forced to eat in. For some, there is time to cook, recovering the aromas, colors and flavors that bless the table.
Without sports or meetings, some families are rediscovering the joy and riches of eating together.
Canceling plans, foregoing activities, and ceding our freedom is a penance. But the void left by imposed sacrifices is being filled.
Games and puzzles are spread across the floor. Couples reencounter in long walks and lingering meals. In some hands, pens blossom into letters.
Alsmgiving appears in many forms. It’s helping food pantries cope with the crisis, or sewing masks and gowns for those who cannot retreat to safety.
It’s calling friends and neighbors or buying only what you need. It’s kids leaving messages of good wishes in chalk on the sidewalk. It is praying for strangers.
This time is challenging, even unbearable to some, but it will come to an end.
Five weeks into Lent, our Sunday readings offered a vision of relief and new-found hope. Ezekiel quoted the Lord saying, “I will put My spirit in you that you may live.” Then Jesus called Lazarus from the grave.
One day soon, we too will be called back to life, released from the grip of death. The only question is, “How has this grave changed me?”