Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush…
From ‘Spring’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Even the weeds in spring delight the heart of the poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins. After the dark days and cold winds of winter spring touches the hearts of us all. Spring – the season of primroses, and daffodils, and lambs and bright green leaves; the season of growth and new life. In our experience we know that growth involves change and we can have a tendency to resist change.
The season of spring is also the season of Lent – a reminder of the 40 years the people of Israel spent in the desert before they entered the promised land; a reminder of the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert in prayer and fasting before he began his public ministry. The desert was a place of challenge and struggle both for the people of Israel and for Jesus, when he faced temptation during this time of solitude.
Lent invites us to enter into some level of solitude and reflection symbolised by the desert. It is a time when we make a conscious choice to change: ‘I will spend time each day in quiet prayer; I will do without something that I really like, such as chocolate or alcohol, in order to give to those in need.’ In other words, I renew my baptismal commitment to follow Jesus, to allow his love to change me so that I may become more like him.
As for Jesus, so for us the symbol of the desert represents the challenging, the painful aspects of life’s journey. The garden, as contrasting symbol, stands for the goal of that journey. It symbolises heaven.
After his time in the desert Jesus, filled with the Spirit, began to preach the Good News and to live a life of unconditional love among the poor, the broken, the suffering. He brought healing and hope to those rejected by the society of his time. He challenged the powerful, who were oppressing the poor, knowing that this would lead to his death. On Good Friday his cross reminds us of his love for all of us ‘even unto death.’
After the long sorrow of Good Friday and Holy Saturday, we, together with Mary Magdalen, have the opportunity to meet Jesus in the garden of the Resurrection – the place of joy and wonder. The poet Patrick Kavanagh describes this moment, as seen by the farmers of his native Monaghan, in a beautiful springtime image:
…Yet sometimes when the sun comes through a gap
These men know God the Father in a tree:
The Holy Spirit is the rising sap,
And Christ will be the green leaves that will come
At Easter from the sealed and guarded tomb ….
Like the poet, who could see within nature the beauty of the Trinity, may we too meet Christ both in the poor and oppressed people of our world, and in the light shining through trees, the music of the thrush, the stillness of starlight. Let this accompany our prayer as we journey through Lent to rejoice in the risen Christ this Easter.
Sr Patricia Byrne
Published in the March/April issue of the Far East magazine. Please subscribe and support Columban missionaries. Just €10 for a year’s digital subscription and €20 for the print edition. Subscribe here: https://columbans.ie/product/far-east-magazine-yearly-subscription/