Only fourty-one days until Ash Wednesday, Yes, I know that we have only just finished celebrating Christmas. We haven’t even celebrated the Feast of the Presentation. Last Sunday was only the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. So why am I running around like Chicken Little screaming “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”
Well, the reason is simple, Lent has a tendency to sneak up on me. Christmas is over. The tree is down, the ornaments put away, the relatives gone home, and we all take a collective sigh and think “Well it was fun while it lasted, but thank God it’s over.” We drift thankfully into the January funk. After all, it’s winter. The snow is hip deep and creeping up towards my chin, the credit card bills from Christmas will soon be here, and spring is far away. (After all, that is what Lent means, “spring”.) Then **bang!! **Ash Wednesday is the day after tomorrow and I’m not packed!! I don’t even know where I’m going or what I’m going to do when I get there.
You see, I’ve always seen Lent as a camping trip with Jesus. He has invited me to go with Him, just the two of us, into the wilderness to camp out for 40 days. It will be the last chance we’ll have for some alone time together before He goes to His passion and death, the last chance He’ll have to tell me all the things He wants to tell me before Easter. No TV, dvds, newspapers, just Him and me. But year after year, I mark it on my calendar (or not, since the nice people at the calendar factory do it for me) and then I promptly forget all about it until suddenly there it is – tomorrow is Ash Wednesday – and I have to give Jesus a call and beg off yet again, because I’m just not ready to go, but “Hey, Jesus, you go ahead without me and have fun camping. I’ll be thinking of you.”
And of course, it’s a slippery slope as they say. A wasted Lent is generally followed by a wasted Triduum followed not by the joy of the Resurrection but by Chocolate bunnies and a really bad cholesterol test (I really need to schedule my doctor’s appointments before holidays, not after.)
This year I do NOT plan to let Lent sneak up on me. This year, I want to take that camping trip with Jesus into the wilderness and sit at His feet and hear everything He wants to tell me. This year, I will be prepared. I’ve got 41 days to pack, stop the mail, the newspapers, the milk and take the children to the vet’s. Or, to drop the metaphor, to prayerfully discern how to spend my lent.