Wednesday 1 March 2017

Wed 1st. Ash Wednesday Jl 2:12-18; 2Co 5:20–6:2; Mt 6:1-6,16-18

In this special Lenten series – Darkness to light: An intimate journey with Jesus – our guest writer looks to the Gospel stories for answers to the questions that many of us ask when faced with difficult times.

‘When you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place.’

Today, in my private room, there are no distractions from the outside world. There is nothing here but heartache. My beloved has just received the worst possible diagnosis. The condition is terminal. I ask ‘How long?’ The doctor says six to eight weeks. I had partly expected this. In hindsight, I realise I had seen all the signs. I had as good as been told, but I was in denial. Now there is no way out.

What can be harder than watching one’s beloved go to their death? What can be sadder than travelling every step of the way, watching life ebb away and my love being taken? In my private room I am facing the reality of death and the ultimate loss of the love of my life. I wish I could have been more loving. Only now do I realise how much love means. For the first few weeks of Lent we will mostly be following Jesus’ journey to the cross in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus is shown to be the beloved Son of God and the Messiah, and yet he is betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, and then most cruelly treated. The abandonment and pain is absolute.

Lent lasts 40 days. In the Old Testament the number 40 is a Covenant theme. Whenever it appears, it always refers to God’s relationship with the chosen people. Noah is in the Ark 40 days and nights, after which a rainbow appears as a sign of a new Covenant with God. The Hebrews wander in the desert for 40 years, as the Lord God prepares them for the Promised Land. Moses was on the Mountain 40 days and nights, before God gave him the Ten Commandments that articulated the Old Covenant. Elijah walks 40 days and nights to Mt Sinai, to renew the Covenant where God had spoken to Moses. And so Jesus goes into the desert for 40 days and nights, as a sign that he is establishing a New Covenant. We must remember that this Covenant is with each of us, as each of us has a unique relationship with our loving God.

But today, in my private room, there is still only heartache. I give thanks for your promises and rainbows, but dear God, does my love go to dust? Please help me. This Lent will mean everything to me: a journey with my beloved in the last weeks and days of life. Loving God, help me to sense your presence. Help me to live in love. Help me to stay close to Jesus and his cruel treatment, all the way to resurrection.

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