Lent 2023: Wednesday Lent Week Two

This week our reflections play with the symbol of light. Learning is being enlightened.

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Human life is not drudgery. Nor is the endless activity of the universe up there and far away that we hear so much about. Or the life of the invisible microcosms living inside us. Yet, there are times when it can seem a drudge denying us what we need – food and shelter, justice, companionship or good work. When we feel existence is a meaningless drudge, as many today do, a change of perception and opening the heart can make the ‘drudgery divine’. We have only to look through the glass that we are narrow-mindedly looking at. Maybe we’re waiting for a message to appear on the glass as if it were a screen. Compulsively checking our phones is like looking at the glass rather than through it.

We are not asked to look at Jesus asking him, ‘what would you do now, what would you say, who would you vote for?’ Those are questions we might ask looking at someone on screen whom we are zooming with. In each chapter of his story, his forty days in the desert, his illumination on the mountain, his passion death and resurrection, we look through him in order to see him as he really is now. Then we understand how we are in an indescribable union with him, on a journey in him, with him, through him.

The malaise of meaninglessness in our consumerist, techno-scientific phase of human history is demoralising. The shared beliefs and values, the faith or fears that kept us aligned to some kind of morality and restrained the madness of some leaders have disintegrated. What holds us together as humanity, making us ashamed to invade another country and brainwash your own people into believing that the victim is the aggressor? What kind of meaning does a teenager find in world news? Where did the ethical values of business and politics go? Why do the worst candidates so often get elected? How can one claim divine approval for denying education and equality to girls and women? The moral void of our time convinces many that life is not only unfair but essentially meaningless. 

Yet we search for meaning even in deserts. Just to be searching, however, can be a trap that increases desertification. Searching for meaning, like pursuing happiness tricks us into thinking we have to do something to find the answer or the theory that captures meaning. We cannot actively achieve meaning, only create the conditions for it to appear. 

Let’s say that meaning is connection. Think about this by remembering how meaningless and miserable we become when we feel dis-connected. Merely actively looking for meaning, becoming a busybody who can’t stop trying, just increases our disconnectedness. 

Of course, active searching is part of responsible living. But the deeper part of meaningfulness is surrendering into our powerlessness to find it. In the release that follows, connection at the deepest levels is revealed. A different kind of empowerment then fills us by the power of non-action (not to be confused with in-action). This is the great gamble in our connection to reality, in meditation, to put everything we possess into non-action.

When the Egyptians were pursuing the Israelites after they had left slavery and had got as far as the Rede Sea, the chosen people regretted their choice for freedom. They told Moses to take them back. At least they would have leeks, onions and wifi. In this critical moment, their leader told them: ‘the Lord will do the fighting for you. You have only to be still.’

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