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Lent is also a time to make space for gratitude

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Msgr. Gregory E.S. Malovetz - published on 02/26/24

In the seasons of the year, and many seasons of my life, the tree has been a reliable, comforting presence. I feel the duty to say not only goodbye, but thank you. 

As I back out of the garage, headed to my office, I remember. Today is the day. I hesitate for a moment because, it seems silly. But a surprising emotion wells up in me as I put the car in park, turn it off, and walk to the rectory backyard. 

There it stands, and although there are signs of its former glory, it is dead. The large crab apple tree that has stood in the rectory yard for over 50 years will be cut down today. I felt compelled to say goodbye. 

I squint in the morning light, as my mind travels back to other mornings standing in this spot. I see my dog frustrated, attempting to climb the tree in the hope of catching the annoying squirrel. I see the blossoms of spring and the changing, falling leaves of autumn. And the ghosts of winters past, branches weighed down by ice or snow. In the seasons of the year, and many seasons of my life, the tree has been a reliable, comforting presence. In this moment I feel the duty to say not only goodbye, but thank you. 

The story of faith begins and reaches its fulfillment with a tree center stage. In the garden of Eden, it is the tree beautiful to look at, but with fruit forbidden to eat. At a hill called Calvary, it is the wood of a tree, heartbreaking to look at, but beautiful in its promise: life is changed, never ended. 

In Lent we take a long loving look back at this story of faith. We see it not as ancient history, but as a promise that is still true today. Jesus shared all the seasons of our life. He stands with us, promising that love, justice, peace, and forgiveness are not nice ideas. They are the truths that guide us. And when we find that hard to believe, or when life changes in ways we would never expect, he is there. 

Lent is a season of repentance for the times we haven’t lived our faith. But as I grow older, I understand Lent also as time of making space for gratitude. Gratitude for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus; how it is still for me a guiding light in times of personal struggle. And gratitude for the great men and women of faith, whose stories we hear at Mass throughout Lent. They offer inspiration and hope in these troubled times. 

Returning to the car, my eyes well up with tears. I am glad no one is there to ask why I am crying. The tears were for more than a tree that would be gone by noon. They were for people who have revealed God’s presence in the seasons of my life. And how often I take it for granted. 

Lent is a time of returning to the Lord. But Lent ends. We return to ordinary life, with gratitude for those providing shade and beauty. We return with the challenge to do the same for others. 

GratitudeLentSpiritual Life
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