Refocusing for the Second Half

When Easter is this late in the year, it becomes especially difficult to stay focused on Lent.  Unlike Advent, which is only four weeks and even then nearly everyone slides into Christmas stuff well before Christmas Eve, we still have two weeks of Lent and then Holy Week, the most intense time of the Christian year.

Meanwhile, Spring has sprung all over the place and the four weeks we can usually manage to work within for disciplines and introspection are up.  Many folks can manage a month, but six weeks is pushing it.  Additionally, here in Atlanta, all of the public schools are on spring break this week, meaning that people are on trips - beach, golf, tennis, shopping, fun, fun, fun.  I have no doubt that those trying to keep Lenten disciplines around food are having trouble this week while they are vacationing.

This situation also, though, gives us an opportunity to take a deep breath before Holy Week.  This past Sunday (yesterday, Lent Four) is known as "lighten up" Sunday, or refreshment Sunday, or Laetare (Latin for "rejoice!") Sunday.  Some of the high-church persuasion parishes have a set of rose vestments for the day (which can also be used on Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday in Advent, another lighten up in the middle of a somber season day).  We need to come up for air before the really deep dive.

But the pilgrimage goes on.  We are not there yet; in fact, to repeat, the most intense time is yet before us.  And yet on and after Laetare Sunday we sense a change; in our proper preface at the Eucharist we move from temptations in the wilderness to preparing with joy for the Paschal feast.  If you, like many, need to refocus now (or when you get back from Spring Break), shifting your focus away from temptations, trials, and separations from God and toward preparing with joy for Easter and its time of closeness, living and journeying with and in the light of Christ, while being sustained by God even in the wilderness (i.e., continuing to keep one's disciplines) is one way to go.

In other words, we've explored temptation and falling short and repentance.  Not that we're finished with that for ever, but now it's time to move on toward preparing to be in the presence of God, like the time when God tabernacled with the people in the wilderness.  This comes with its own set of considerations now that we have shed some of our baggage during the first weeks of Lent: looking for/recognizing holy ground; practicing generosity toward others; offering sanctuary for those who are marginalized by society, if not in person then at least in our hearts and minds. This is my own plan.

After a couple of days off.