Our days of Lent have begun. We have put things in place to keep the spirit of the season before us – the ashes, the hymns, the stations of the Cross. We have removed the Glorias, alleluias and flowers. These external gestures are offered to us in order to stir reflection on and attention to our inner selves in order to facilitate conversion. As we look within we may encounter our fears, our doubts, our regrets, our insecurities, our woundedness, our pain. Most times we do not want to see or admit that these elements are part of our interior landscape and as such our response can be to resort to denial, pretense, cover up. What would others think of us if they knew? In the spirit of our season of Lent whatever others think we can lay aside and instead turn to God and surrender ourselves to him. I recall the words of the prophet Joel that we heard on Ash Wednesday:
“… come back to me with all your heart…turn to the Lord your God again for he is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness, and ready to relent”.
In the Spirit of Lent we are also invited to pay attention to other areas of our internal landscape which we may not see at first but which are there and they are real, they are ours and we can claim them. These are our hopes, our convictions, our dreams, our virtues, our sense of worth and more. It is in this spirit of Lent that our gaze is on resurrection and new life and we are called to conversion – to surrender our brokenness to God with a resolve, relying on his help, to embrace the gifts, the goodness, the possibilities that are ours from him.
In his recent Exhortation Querida Amazonia (The beloved Amazon), Pope Francis speaks of “four great dreams”. He says:
“I dream of an Amazon region that fights for the rights of the poor, the original peoples and the least of our brothers and sisters, where their voices can be heard and there dignity advanced.
I dream of an Amazon region that can preserve its distinctive cultural riches, where the beauty our humanity shines forth in so many varied ways.
I dream of an Amazon region that can jealously preserve its overwhelming natural beauty and the superabundant life teeming in its rivers and forests.
I dream of Christian communities capable of generous commitment, incarnate in the Amazon region and giving the Church new faces with Amazonian features”.
The context of Pope Francis’ Exhortation, and the Synod, is his deep concern for the deterioration of the human ecology resulting in the destruction of “our common home”. While he laments he dreams; not an empty wishful thinking but a confidence and conviction that people of faith, sharing such a dream, can and must work together to turn things around. Lent is the time to articulate our dreams.
The beginning of Lent this year coincides with national elections. This too lays its claim to being a “season” with its external manifestations of voting lists, voting stations, rallies, manifestos, media adds all intended to stir responses from the electorate. As we go to the polls, and our Christian vocations clearly disposes and mandates us to do so, let us dream for Guyana. We can take the words of Pope Francis and in place of “an Amazon region” we can substitute “a Guyana”.
Our days of Lent have begun. Let this enable us to say that the days of personal conversion have begun, that we have begun to shape our dreams into reality: dreams for ourselves, for our families, for our church, for our nation and for our world.