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An Oasis During Lent

March 25th, 2013by Mary Anne Bressler

palm treeA few weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of a week’s vacation in Costa Rica. This was hardly a sacrificial experience for the 2nd week of Lent, as I played in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean with my oldest daughter and two granddaughters, lounged on the huge verandah, and fell asleep to the cacophony of what sounded like a million tropical insects. We did eat modestly. Beans and rice were on the menu for dinner most nights. The area where we stayed is far from the tourist centers, and so the small local markets were our source of food. Everything was fresh and delicious, and eating sparingly was still feasting.

What I found to be one of the great spiritual treasures of this week was that it was truly an experience of kairos time. I didn’t bother to wear my watch and I left my smart phone in my bedroom. Chronological time simply ceased to matter. We arose with the sun (which is when everything outside gets much quieter), went to the beach and then hung around on the porch doing not much of anything in particular, ate an early dinner and went to bed shortly after dark—usually around 7:30 p.m. I’ve always suspected that heaven is when time ceases to exist, and this vacation strongly supports that theory.

tropical viewBeing in what is certainly one of God’s best bits of Creation is a constant reminder of God’s goodness and artistic sense. The black beaches speckled with rocks and shells, the vast array of birds and bugs, the warm breezes, and the extraordinarily kind and gracious residents create as close to Eden as one can get. The power of the ocean as the tide rolls in takes my breath away. It is all so incredibly complex and perfectly elegant.

Now that I am back home and back to chronos time, I am grateful for that week and also challenged by it. I flew home feeling rested and far healthier. The sinus infection I’d been battling off and on for two months had disappeared. I’d had more sleep in a week than I probably get in some months. I was filled with gratitude and a sense of wonder, but also some questions. There is a great deal of poverty in Costa Rica, and I think about how we are called to be neighbor.  I think about our overly high standard of living and contemplate how I can live more simply. I worry about how climate change will affect that ecosystem. What damage am I doing to the climate? Lent seems an appropriate time to grapple with these challenges.

Even though this week we will be focusing on suffering and death, ultimately our God is a God of life and goodness and love. Even as we engage in our Lenten sacrifices and reflection, we need to keep that belief at the forefront. We aren’t standing in fear of a God of judgment who wants us to suffer. We walk with a God who loves us and wants what is best for us. The sacrifices are necessary for us, to help us grow by giving up the things that cause us to be self-centered rather than God-centered. They create us anew, making us a wonder of Creation also.

Photo credit: M. Bressler, Used with Permission

Mary Anne Bressler

Mary Anne Bressler is a parishioner and Pastoral Associate at St. Anthony Church in Madisonville and an adjunct faculty member at Xavier University.