This year the spring season begins on Thursday, March 19, just three weeks before the great Easter Triduum begins. One of the first readings of the spring season gives us hope, for it reminds us of the Lord’s return. Just as the earth shows an early sign of renewal, the prophet Hosea pledges that the Lord will return to heal us, bind our wounds, revive and renew us. “He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain that waters the earth” (Hosea 6:1-6).
For some people, Lent is a gloomy time. Perhaps a childhood memory of deprivation, with no real understanding of the reason for the sacrifice, clouds their memory of Lent. Perhaps for some Catholics, thoughts of the terrible suffering and death of Jesus overshadows and depresses their Lenten observance. For some, after a purposeful march to the altar to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday, the discipline of Lent fades. Not so for the Christian steward. Good stewards remain faithful to the discipline of the Lenten season, but they also remain hopeful with a deep sense of joy. After all, what is Lent but a reminder of our salvation? What is Lent but the harbinger of the Life that conquered all death?
It’s not an accident that Lent occurs just as we begin to realize, at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, that once again, the light and color of spring are returning. In the midst of our Lenten discipline, the prophet means to comfort us. Just as the spring rains begin to fall, the promise of Easter’s joy will soon be upon us. It is indeed a time of hope as the prophet encourages us to return to the Lord as well (Hos 6:1).
As Lent begins, we may struggle through cold and ice, in our world and in our hearts. But as Easter nears, the delicate leaves of crocuses and daffodils speak of Resurrection. Lent demands discipline, but it also inspires hope. As faithful stewards of the Gospel message, we know how the story ends!