But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So, you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6: 8-11)
Recently, I celebrated my sixty-fifth birthday and though working full-time and at a helter-skelter pace, it gave me pause to look back – and look ahead. I am thinking not so much of slowing down, although there is that gladdening of heart that I no longer have to prove myself or please others. I am not stuck on a ladder to someone else’s perceived notion of success. Now, I am thinking of other ways of being and doing. This thought is almost exultant, with its acknowledgement of new freedoms excavated within the structure and routine that must remain.
With age, they say, comes wisdom, and so a few words about the gratitude I hold for the gift of my life; colourful, sometimes unchoreographed and hapless, on other occasions, bejewelled with small blessings and daily wonders, unique and God-given.
But for now, it is time to gather in the harvest of the years.
I seem to be reflecting more on what it means to live this good life. I like to think that I am wising up; that the later, riper years are bearing a new sort of fruit. Some nights before I retire, I do the Examen, not always very well, but I sit in my grandmother’s chair in the lounge room with the light off and the gentle exhalations of the day cocooning me. I think over my day, where I did well and where I could have done better and thank God for the morrow to try again.
The harvest of the years finds me in a good place. I am doing what I love, working with words and ideas and helping, somehow, to build the next generation. My faith is held closely, changing as I learn and discern, an invisibility cloak that keeps me strong. My husband is retired, my daughter is engaged and later this year I am visiting the Holy Land, staying on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.
Here I hope to broaden my understanding of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Now, in April, I will again be reminded of the central story of our Catholic/ Christian faith tradition, the Passion, Death and Resurrection of this God-man who changed the course of human history. I have taken pause during Lent to review my relationship with God and the world around me. I may not have “given up” chocolate, but I hope I have “given up” some thoughts and actions which do not accord with how I see my better self, the self that responds as Jesus would to those around him. This, of course, is a huge ask for us, but our Christian life, if anything, demands of us to keep trying to follow the model that the Messiah set for us.
During this special season, there have been quiet moments for reflection in chapel, church, in a park or on the tram. Sometimes these are more overtly prayerful, sometimes they are looser ponderings about the quality of my life, relationships, commitments, effort, the more I could do or the reorientations or accommodations I need to make.
Lent asks us to slow us down and rethink and renew our relationship with God, a relationship which can become lost or fractured by other demands in our lives. If we are serious about living a life in tune with the Holy Spirit, we need to deliberately take the time to honour the original story of infinite love and forgiveness and the miracle of the Resurrection.
Lent is a season for prayer, fasting and donating. Perhaps we have donated what we can to Project Compassion remembering the tale of the widow’s mite. We may have fasted or denied ourselves something in very minor mortification. And the beauty of prayer is that it can be done anytime. It is our spiritual breath, a communication as wide and deep and open as we want it to be. A gift where we may utter our most intimate longings and where we must also listen as God’s heart begins to beat with ours.
As we journey through Lent we companion Jesus on his final days. We know the fickleness of the crowd who greet him ecstatically on Palm Sunday and bay for blood on Good Friday. We know of that last journey along the Via Dolorosa as Jesus carries his own instrument of death. We know of the women who mourn, the men who ran away, the good thief and the Roman soldier who recognised in the agony of Jesus’ crucifixion that here truly was the Son of God.
We gather through the dark hours after his death and wait. On Easter Sunday, we celebrate the Resurrection and the sure and certain apex of our faith life. As Pope John Paul 11 said: Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.
Over the years of our faith lives, we, too, are gathering a harvest of goodness for self and others as we live out, sometimes more, sometimes less in the ebbs and flows of our lives, the truth of loving God and loving neighbour.
On Easter Sunday, we live in the promise of the Lord with the triumph of the cross as a victory over death and all forms of darkness.
We are again an Easter people, alive in the light and summons of the Resurrection.
By Ann Rennie
Photos: Ann Rennie and Adobe Stock