Life can be breathless. Sometimes we need to take a breath and see how far we have come; to ponder our successes, our failings, all the hurdles we jumped, disasters we dodged, and things that we accomplished. As strange as it might seem, the Easter Season can be a time to think about Lent. At the beginning of Lent the classic refrain is “What are you giving up?” One parishioner who loves chocolate gave it up entirely for Lent. I asked, “Did that bring you closer to God?” The response was, “Not really. I just end up being cranky and miserable for all of Lent.” I am pretty sure that was not the hoped-for result. Within the tradition of prayer, alms giving, and fasting, there needs to be a path that makes room in your life for our God who is ever close to us.
So — we have journeyed through Lent and arrived at Easter — it is an important marker on the bigger journey of life. Back in the days before GPS, all naval vessels, even submarines, had to routinely “take a fix” to verify its location, to get our bearings. We knew where we intended to go, estimated we were halfway there (but still in the middle of the ocean), so we took out our navigation gear and “fixed” our position on the charts. In that way we measured our progress and had a chance to assess all the factors that might have taken us slightly off course, delayed us, or moved us ahead of schedule.
If the Lenten leg of the journey of faith was to make room in your life for God, what was the result? Are you closer to God? Did you make room for God? Did that “making room” result in some transformation or conversion large or small? Were you filled with God’s presence and shaped by God’s grace? We have journeyed through the mystery of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection in the celebration of Holy Week — and now He is risen.
I think a great Easter season question is this: “What began in Lent, will you continue to let it grow? And where is this all taking you?” Life with God in heaven is the answer in the long term, but it strikes me that a nearer term goal might be centered in the way we look at all this. If Lent was the period in which we “made room for God,” I would suggest that the next segment of this transformation is “we should make God the room.”
What I mean by this is that God should be not merely the reference point but the whole context out of which we operate. God is not merely the source of our existence, he is the substance of our existence, the very life we have, and without God we would be lifeless, even if we are alive. Put another way, if Jesus is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.
I think St. Francis understood that God is not an “abstract philosophical construct or a theological theory,” but the One who gives us life every day, is the reason we get up in the morning, and is the focus of our praise. God is both our creator and our redeemer; both our raison d’etre and the reason why we do what we do. God is both the source of love and the sort of love we should have and express. God is the overwhelming, awesome, all-loving being that can sweep our lives into wholeness, completeness, and rest. He is Lord of all.
But that transformation in the way we view God does not leave us in control. Frankly, it can be scary. Rather than seeing it as being swept up in the arms of a loving parent and held close, it seems like the flood waters sweeping us away. So, it is safer to domesticate God, turn God into our buddy, shrink him down to our size to manageable proportions. We can even turn it all into a popular Top-40 song: “What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us? Just a stranger on the bus?” (words by Eric Bazillian, sung by Joan Osborne, 1995). While I liked the song and even sing along with it, I am deeply aware that God was indeed one of us and while He was right there on the bus, He was not a slob like one of us. Jesus did not come to merely try on humanity or hang out with us. He came to show us the fullness of what humanity was intended to be. He came to save us from ourselves, and for Himself.
So often we just cannot see that, but then vision is often a problem in the human condition. I can remember being in high school and really wanting one of my classmates to “really see me.” I just knew that if she really knew who I was, well heck, she would invite me to the prom. Now take that same kind of experience and blow it up to cosmological proportions. If we could just really see God, we would run to the “divine prom,” the perichoresis, (peri – around; chorea – dance) that divine dance of the Triune God in, with, and through all life, all being, all love.
It is indeed a Divine Mercy that God waits for us to simply realize who He is. He is Lord of all.