As my husband, Bill, and I began to prepare for a four-week Lent workshop at our parish, we asked ourselves: Is it possible to have a joyful Lent?
Lent is a time when we traditionally think of giving things up; we sacrifice things that bring us joy — a favorite dessert, a glass of wine, a diet coke or a handful of M&Ms.
But what if we were able to give up things that keep us from joy? Could we give up anger or resentment? What would happen if we gave up jealously or hopelessness for Lent?
As Christians, we begin our journey into Lent focusing on the somber and solemnness of the season. It is a time for reflection and penance; a time of winter’s cold; and a time of darkness.
But Lent literally means the lengthening of daylight hours. Lent is a movement from darkness to light; it leads us to the warmth and new life of spring.
While the season of Lent is a time to grow into the joy of the resurrection, we are often uncomfortable and afraid of the idea of resurrection or the resurrected form.
In Mark’s Gospel, we hear: They ran away from the tomb and said nothing to a soul, for they were afraid (16:5-8). Our human tendency is to deny and fear the divine presence, our own true selves and our inner destiny.
Even the disciples did not initially believe in the resurrection. We hear this three times in Mark’s Gospel (16:11-15) and Jesus confronts them (16:14). While this may appear to be a troublesome start in creating a new religion, doubt is an essential partner to faith.
We also hear from three women who ask: Who will roll away the rock from the tomb? (16-3). This question is still our question. Who will help us roll away the rock find our true self? As we journey through Lent, we have the opportunity to seek a deeper truth without fear.
Richard Rohr, Franciscan priest and author, tells us that resurrection is not just about a man returning to his body. It is about a universal man leading us into a universal future. Jesus does this by making use of the past and transforming it.
In all four Gospels, there are amazing images of the resurrection: running, rushing, excitement, joy, eating and jumping naked into the water that speak to a freedom for the future, the past is over, gone and totally forgiven.
There is a capacity, similarity and desire for divine reality inside all humans. What we seek is what we are. In Mark, Jesus tells us we will find it. In the Eucharist, we receive what we are and we become what we receive.
Rohr notes that the mystery of Christ serves as a map for our journey to the true self. The risen Christ is the icon for full consciousness. In the human mind of Christ, every part of creation knows itself as divinely conceived; beloved of God; crucified; and finally reborn.
Christ carries us across with him, assuring us and thereby modeling the full journey and the final consciousness.
It is possible to have joyful Lent.
Teresa Schulz is a spiritual director, lay theologian, retreat facilitator, lecturer and volunteer chaplain. She is the founder of Tools for Intentional Living and co-founder of mainespiritus. Her email address is: