Lent: A time for preparation

Dear friends and family in the Covenant of Love,

We are all living an unprecedented Lenten season. I wanted to take the opportunity to connect with you all, and to join my prayers with yours.

Early last week, Fr. Mark decided to quarantine our older Fathers in our Waukesha house to reduce the risk of their exposure to COVID-19. I was asked to quarantine with them and help out with the practical details around the house. It’s truly been a gift to spend this last week and a half together with some of the founding members of our Community!

The symbol of Lent is the desert, the place of Jesus’ temptation. As the last step of his journey before beginning his public ministry, Jesus’ time in the desert is often seen as one of the greatest hardships in his Earthly life—where he had to definitively put God before all else. Lent, for us, is also a time of preparation for the most sacred of feasts in the Church’s liturgical year: the suffering, death and Resurrection of Christ. I would like to offer another interpretation of the Lenten time in the desert: a honeymoon.

For the ancient Israelites, it was common for newlyweds to set off into the desert with their supplies for some time alone with their new spouse. While the desert has often been a sign of barrenness and dryness, the prophet Hosea uses this image to illustrate how God plans to win back His people from idolatry:

But look, I am going to seduce her and lead her into the desert and speak to her heart. There I shall give her back her vineyards, and make the Vale of Achor a gateway of hope. There she will respond as when she was young, as on the day when she came up from Egypt.

Hos 2:16-17

In this passage, God—who has incessantly tried to sway Israel to remain in communion with Him—reveals his plan for the desert from the beginning. The desert is the place where his people are with him alone, a time to be enchanted by the omnipresence of the all-powerful and loving God.

Likewise, in Lent we fast from things that distract us from the essential parts of life: our life in Christ, our family and friends.

As I prepare my heart for the upcoming priestly ordination, it’s interesting that Providence has given me this opportunity for inner growth. I would’ve imagined these last months before ordination as practicing for homilies, and outward pastoral work, but I’m reminded that God always knows and provides what we most need. One of the greatest gifts of this time has been to remember the initial meaning of being a Deacon: to serve the Christian community in the most practical everyday tasks like the first deacons who were appointed to attend to the widows at the community meals (Acts 6:2).

Above all, I have gained a renewed thankfulness for the opportunity to be present for the daily celebration of the Eucharist. I have heard from so many Christians this past week who have missed being able to attend mass. Please know that you all are very present in our daily celebration!

We continue united in prayer for all those most affected by the Coronavirus, especially those who are anxious and alone in this time, and I also count on your prayers for the upcoming ordination on June 6.

In Christ with Mary,

D. Jeff