Throughout the Lenten season, we’ll be posting reflections for holy days and Sundays. These reflections are gleaned from Lenten reflection booklets which Pax Christi USA has been publishing for over 40 years, and their messages ring as true now as they did when they were first written. Click here to see all reflections as they are posted as well as links to other Lenten resources on our Lent 2021 webpage.
Today’s reflection is from Dr. Mary Carter Waren, taken from her 2005 Lenten reflection booklet. Mary is a theologian, retreat director, and the senior consultant on Mission Integration and Strategic Planning at Carter Waren Consulting. She served as a professor of religious studies at St. Thomas University in Miami for many years and was part of the faculty at the Center for Loss and Healing which offers graduate-level training in grief and loss. She is a former chair of the Pax Christi USA National Council.
reflection for THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT, MAR. 14, 2021
by Mary Carter Waren
We are truly God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to lead the life of
good deeds which God prepared us for in advance. (Eph 2:10)
“Everyone who practices evil hates light; they do not come near it for fear their deeds will be exposed. But those who act in truth come into the light, to make clear that their deeds are done in God.” (Jn 3:20-21)
For so long after my sister Philomena’s murder, I dreaded the nights. One of the most difficult parts of the deep grief after a traumatic loss is how long the nights seem when sleep will not come. It’s 2:00am, then 3:00 and 4:00, and there is no relief from the thoughts that loom large in the dark. Worries, doubts, fears, and grief all seem more overwhelming in the silence of the night. Often when sleep finally comes, it is short-lived and filled with thoughts and dreams that do not console. So little can be fixed in the darkness, and even the details that you know you must attend to cannot be dealt with at 3:00 in the morning.
Morning light breaking through seems a relief, somehow making it easier to breathe, easier to cope. Nothing is actually different; the loss is still real and final, but the light lifts the loneliness of the night. Brought into the light of day, surviving even the most traumatic losses can feel possible. Fears and sorrows can be named and spoken in the light in a way that takes some of their power away. Still the mystery is that we require both day and night, both light and darkness; God created both and found it good.
The readings today call us out of the shadows of the night and into the mystery of the light, certain of our salvation because we are God’s handiwork. We were created for good, as people of the light, not for evil. Yet we recognize the power of evil because we have seen and felt it, not only in others, but in ourselves. Carl Jung reminds us that we are capable of recognizing evil in others precisely because it resonates with the shadow side of ourselves. It is much easier to project that shadow outside of ourselves, on our partners, our government, our church, our enemies, than to embrace that shadow within us. That darkness, that shadow, lies in wait like my 3:00 am fears; it stalks my heart, frightens me, it keeps me from acting for the good, it leaves me exhausted. It is only when I incorporate the shadow into who I am and bring it to the light that I move toward wholeness. It is easier to reject the night than to bring it into dawn. We are called to the mystery of the light.
What part of my life lies hidden, projected onto others with reflection? How might I use this Lenten season to trust God enough to bring it into the light, to be one who “acts in truth”?
How might I be light to another’s fears or anxieties, not by dismissing, minimizing, or trivializing them, but being fully present to that person’s reality?
This reflection was originally published in Living in the Mystery of God: Reflections for Lent, by Dr. Mary Carter Waren.