Dear Members of the Sacred Heart Community,
Lent is intentionally disorienting.
While walking on the sun-saturated beach of the gulf shore, my feet suddenly sank quickly into the white snow-like sand. Deeply down they went quite quickly surrounded by the liquified pool of sand and slush. Giving me new understanding of the phrase "quick sand," I reached out for the arm of a friend while scrambling to find solid ground.
That one step brought me to a new awareness: the beginning of my Lenten journey.
With soaked socks and squishy shoes, I began to reflect more ontologically about God, life, our world, and our school community. Yes, a "long walk home" on a quiet beach helps with thoughts of this type. So do the 40 days of Lent.
Lent invites us to seek what really matters.
Most of us know the jarring experience of "the bottom falling out" in our lives - that sinking feeling that something that has unexpectedly gone awry in a way that seems to abruptly change everything. Such things happen each day in our school community: a much-loved colleague receives a serious health diagnosis, a death occurs in one of our families, or a parent loses their job. We don't always know of these things. People sometimes carry their crosses in silence.
Lent invites us to think deeply about suffering, loss, death, and life.
Beyond our immediate community, the world cries out in so many ways: escalated tensions and conflicts, horrific acts of unimaginable violence, disruptive weather conditions, high levels of anxiety and worry, a sense of meaningless among adolescents and workers, and the objectification of human beings. Amid such anomie and fragmentation, in whom and where do we find solid ground?
Lent shifts our focus from the ordinary to the extraordinary, from the transitory to what is everlasting, from what is insignificant to what is of consequence.
My "falling into a sink hole" experience on the beach focused my attention on two fundamental realities. First and foremost: God is the true "ground of being." As theologian Paul Tillich explains, "The name of the infinite and inexhaustible depth and ground of our being is God. That depth is what the word God means." (The Shaking of the Foundations) Or, as in Acts 17:28, "For it is in Him, we move and have our being."
Secondly, the immediacy of the arm of my "friend on the path" reminded me of the gift of friendship and of the call of Christians to apostolic community. "You are my friends," Jesus explained. (John 15:14) Like Him, we do not travel the path alone. Who is in your spiritual support group? Who is there with you? For you?
On your Lenten journey, I pray that you come to know God as the "ground of being," always as your unshakable source and the foundation for your every step. May you each experience the infinite depth and inexhaustible breadth of God's love on your journey. May the journey of Lent be blessed by the true gift of spiritual community among your colleagues, friends, and family at the Academy of the Sacred Heart.
Sr. Melanie A. Guste, RSCJ, Ph.D.