By: Jason M. Schreder
The days of Lent recall Jesus’ time in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11) where he fasted, prayed and was “tested” in preparation for his mission as the Messiah to heal the broken wounds of Israel, to bring the Kingdom of God into the world, and to defeat the enemies of Israel through a self-emptying love on the Cross (CCC 538-540). It is meant for us to go into our own “desert” to reflect on our own humanity and see through the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and alms giving how we can “repent” and prepare ourselves for the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. What does it mean then to “repent?” To repent means a conversion, a change of mind, heart, and attitude. When Jesus says “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15), he is calling the people then to have a change of mind, heart, and attitude of their “old” sinful ways because what they have been waiting for is being fulfilled. In essence, the words that Jesus spoke in the Gospel still echoes the truth today because as Fr. Steve Grunow says “This truth is that we are all sinners. We have all sinned and our sin is evident in what we have done and in what we have failed to do.” By sinning we have essentially said no to Christ and to his invitation to being disciples. How do we “fail” to do this? By not repenting or having that change of attitude, of mind, and heart. It’s as if we are asleep and need to be awakened out of this spiritual sleep.
So, we have Lent then as our bucket of water that we need thrown on us to “wake us up” and to accept that mission as a disciple of Christ because He gave his life for us so that we can live with Him, the Father, and Holy Spirit forever in Heaven. Another analogy that can be used during this Lenten Season is that we have fallen off the path or the road to our destination on our earthly journey or pilgrimage. We then need to find our way back onto this path in following Christ to eternal happiness with the Father. To see these two ways of needing to be “woken up” and finding our way back to the path, let us look at the English band “Mumford and Sons” for some inspiration during this Lenten Season.
In the song “Hopeless Wanderer” the listener hears the words “But hold me fast, hold me fast ’cause I’m a hopeless wanderer,” which calls to mind the image of this falling off the path that we need to get back on. Lent then is a time to find our way back onto that path. The song also calls to mind the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 15:11-32), when the younger son loses his way on the path by searching for happiness in a far off land and essentially becomes a “hopeless wanderer.” But then, he “repents” and hears the Father call him back as the song sings “I will call you by name, I will share your road.” Each of us have been called by name by the Father and this road we walk on during our earthly journey has been shared with Jesus. St. Pope John Paul II tells us that “we follow the way that is Jesus when, like him, we let the Father lead us back to himself by the paths that he knows are best for us.” Lent then is a time to change our course from a hopeless wanderer to the road that leads us back to our destination with Jesus guiding us to the Father.
In another song from Mumford and Sons it is as if they take the line from Jesus in Mark’s Gospel to repent and fit it to song when they sing “lend me your eyes I can change what you see, but your soul you must keep, totally free.” It is as if Jesus is calling us to repent to change what we see, by keeping sin out of our lives by saying yes to him, and “freeing our souls.” To do this we must “wake” ourselves and ask Jesus to “awake my soul” as the band sings in the song “Awake My Soul.” We need to wake up and be able to take a realistic look at our lives and see how or where we need to change and have a “conversion.” This is especially the case on Ash Wednesday when we receive the ashes and hear the words “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” This reminds us that if we don’t “wake” our souls it is a harsh reality of a return to dust. Recalling the Catholic understanding of the human as body and soul, the listener hears in the song “in these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die, where you invest your love, you invest your life.” We “live” and die in these bodies made of dust, but our lives go on if we have awakened our souls to truly have a change of heart in loving God and others.
This may seem like a stretch to use these two songs as comparisons to one’s journey through Lent, but there is some spiritual insight that can be found if we listen with ears and read with eyes of Faith to help us repent, which is what Lent is truly about. St. Pope John Paul II states that “we are pilgrims progressing from time to eternity, and our goal is the Father himself.” How we do that is through Jesus who “constantly calls us beyond what is familiar and comfortable to new paths of faith and trust” (St. Pope John Paul II). To do this, we repent by getting back on our path and waking our souls through those Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that become not just a practice during lent, but a way of life lived in intentional discipleship with Jesus. To end with one last Mumford and Sons song reference from “Awake My Soul,” we are reminded that “for you were made to meet your maker.” This is what we recall on Ash Wednesday by the ashes on our forehead that through our Lenten journey with Jesus in responding to the Father’s love and call to repent, we draw closer to our eternal destination, of our homeland in Heaven with the Father.