This past year, 2020, has felt like one enormous Lenten season. I know that is not technically accurate, but it seems Easter came and went with hardly a ripple. We have all been slogging through month after month of lockdowns and restrictions.
It has also been a time of reflection for me. What am I doing with my life? How is my family? How is my spiritual life? Is God pleased with where I am heading?
All of these questions are characteristic of Lent. It seems like even in 2020’s Ordinary time and Easter season, God was trying to pull us all back to deeper meditation on what it is we are doing individually, communally, and even globally.
But yesterday was different for me, maybe for the first time in months. In the Catholic calendar, January 1st is the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God.
Over Christmas, I could not be at Mass. My wife had tested positive for Covid the week before (no symptoms, she’s just fine, thankfully). So we all quarantined over Christmas Eve, Christmas, and any other Masses we might have been able to go to. But our quarantine ended Wednesday this last week.
So I sat outdoors with my parish at Friday’s Mass, seeing some faces I haven’t seen for weeks, others months. I was cantoring, and legally speaking, I am supposed to be singing alone. But we have a rebellious parish, and everyone joined in anyway, probably because they were Christmas songs. How can you not join in singing a Christmas song?
January 1st fell on Friday this year. And just like Lent has it’s own set of weeks, Fridays are set aside in the Catholic calendar as days of sorrow. We are meant to think on that Good Friday and fast from something – maybe meat or coffee, whatever is a sacrifice for us. Lent is a special time to do this, but really, Catholics are encouraged to make every Friday a little Lent.
But Feast Days trump these sad Fridays. Despite it typically being a day of sorrow and mourning, the church, in the providence of God, called us to celebrate instead. Mary is our mother which means Jesus, the Son of God, is our brother.
I am no prophet, but I think that’s a fantastic omen for the coming year. We’ve all gone through an extended season of Lent. I’m not ready to call 2021 an “Easter Year”. But on the Feast Day of a mother and child who brought light to a very dark world, I refuse to call 2021 another year of Lent.
I choose to call it a year of hope.
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