Lent – Less is More
Now that we have vaccines to radically reduce or even eliminate Covid-19 what will the post pandemic world be like? Do we go back to life as we knew it in 2019 and before, or are we headed for something new and different? What will the post pandemic face of Christianity look like?
Jesuit theologian Fr Karl Rahner is often remembered for his writings on 20th century Catholicism. People were leaving the Church and he wondered where the future lay. In 1977, he famously wrote: “In the days ahead you will either be a mystic (one who has experienced God for real) or nothing at all.” And on another occasion he said, “Knowing God is more important than knowing about God.” Knowing a person is very different from knowing about a person. Knowing someone involves personal knowledge – something that’s deeper, more trusting and dependable, something of real substance. Have we experienced God for real or are we shadow boxing with an idea or a feeling about God? Knowing God involves knowing ourselves and others. Maybe we could look at ourselves, at those around us, at where we’ve been and consider where we might like to be.
Immediately after his baptism experience, the Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness for forty days “and was tempted by Satan.” Satan gave him a thorough shaking-up during which everything that was unreal – security, wealth, fame and power (the three temptations) – fell from him like scales from his eyes. During these days of Lent we take a fresh look at ourselves, at those around us, at where we are and at where we might like to be. Facing up to who we are is difficult and fearful, and calls for honesty and integrity. As I write this the refrain ‘less is more’ keeps repeating itself in my mind. Can this year’s Lent be about less, or ‘living simply’? Can it point to a new Christian normality as hinted at by Fr. Rahner?
A colleague in Australia shared with me recently ten ‘commandments’ for simple Gospel living:
- Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status and prestige.
- Learn the difference between a real need and an addiction.
- Develop a habit of giving things away.
- Avoid unnecessary and short-lived technological gadgets that promise to ‘save time.’
- Enjoy things without owning them; e.g. take advantage of public libraries and parks.
- Nurture awe and appreciation of nature; spend more time outdoors.
- Get out – and stay out – of debt.
- Use plain honest speech; say what you mean and keep your commitments.
- Reject anything that oppresses others; e.g. buy ‘Fair Trade’ products.
- Seek God’s kingdom of mercy, love and justice; let go of whatever distracts you from that purpose.
Maybe these pandemic times will reinforce the wisdom of living more simply and suggest a way forward for a renewed Christianity.
Fr. QQ – Ash Wednesday 2021