By Barb Arland-Fye
As I packed my suitcase for a trip out of the country, I thought about a Lenten reflection that appears in my guidebook for lectors. Preparing for Lent is much like preparing for a journey, which begins with choosing what to leave behind, the reflection said. You can’t take everything with you. What can you live without, at least temporarily?
I chose to leave behind my winter jacket and other cold weather clothing, aware that the temperatures would fluctuate from hot to cold because the traveling would involve different climates. But the jacket and other items wouldn’t fit in my suitcase.
Taking a trip requires sacrifices, the reflection said. Now nearing the end of my journey overseas, I’m feeling the chill of that sacrifice! I can offer up that minor discomfort as a sacrifice to God on behalf of beggars I’ve seen in the streets, scrawny, disfigured and pleading. They convey to me a visceral image of human misery.
Journeys — physical or metaphorical — take you outside of your comfort zone. I am attached to the rhythms of my daily life: prayer at the start of day with my husband, followed by exercise, breakfast and the work day and concluding with prayer in the evening.
On this trip overseas, every day has been extraordinary, taking me out of my comfort zone at times. I have managed to start and end my day with prayer, the Liturgy of the Hours, and fit in breakfast, lunch and dinner. But those are the only activities that match my routine at home.
This is not a complaint. Being stretched by new experiences, trusting others to get me to appointed destinations and trying new foods, among other things, builds my confidence, trust in God and my appreciation for companions on the journey. Lent also is a time to stretch myself in fresh ways of prayer, fasting and alms giving to bring about growth in my relationship with God and others.
Blessings have also been a part of this journey overseas. I’ve met people whose hospitality and friendship made an indelible impression on me. They modeled the biblical concept of welcoming the foreigner, who may be an angel in their midst. I told one of my new friends that I would like to return the favor of hospitality and generosity. She responded, “We aren’t looking for a favor to be returned. We do this because it gives us joy.” That’s something for me to reflect on this Lent.
Soon, I will pack my suitcase for the trip back home. Yes, I had to leave some things behind; I had to make some small sacrifices. But I gained so much more on this journey, most especially new friendships, a better understanding of another culture and a sense of God’s grace at work in me.
My hope for the Lenten journey is that what I leave behind, what I give of myself, will make me a better Catholic Christian. There’s plenty of room in my metaphorical suitcase for that!
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at email@example.com)