The week before Lent began, I was cordially invited to spend some time in my county court for jury duty. I live in a country setting, so naturally, all I could think of when I saw the summons was Jenna Maroney singing the “Rural Juror” song from 30 Rock. Good times… Anyway, I thought the idea of serving was pretty cool…I had never actually been able to perform this particular civic duty and was looking forward to having the opportunity—expecting, of course, that I would never in a million years get called for a jury. I spent my first hour quietly reading (and thoroughly enjoying) Bram Stoker’s, “Dracula." The wifi was squirrely so I was essentially off the grid and I knew no one there, so I didn’t have to talk to anyone. Since I thought it was to be a short time, it was heaven. I really felt like God had plucked me out of the chaos of pre-Lent prep (which is a lot when you’re the director of the Catechumenate for a parish) and gently placed me into a pre-Lent retreat. That was the first hour…
I was in the second group called up for jury selection. That’s fine, I thought—there are like sixty people in this group. I won’t be chosen. The selection took all day, and we had a nice long lunch where I got to read, pray and be quiet some more. At the very end of the day I was selected. It shouldn’t take long, though, the Judge told us. My one-day retreat turned into a full-on trip into the desert. By Wednesday of the following week—Ash Wednesday—we were still hearing witnesses. And the trial even went into the following week and then an additional day.
I missed Ash Wednesday with my parish for the first time in sixteen years. I was away from my office when I should have been very, very busy preparing Lenten things for the parish and the RCIA. I would normally be spending my time in a very intentional way that would feed my spirit while ministering to others. But, instead, I was taken from my Lenten routine, and placed in a situation where I had to focus entirely on something else—something that required my absolute attention and had nothing to do with Lent.
Lent is my absolute most favorite time of the year. I always warn the Catechumens how very special and graced this time is. Much is revealed, and much is challenged. I had forgotten that this applies to myself as well. And there I was, thrown into the desert of non-productivity, inaccessibility and reliance on others (to drive my kids around, get dinner, etc.). All scary stuff to me. All I could think of was how I was “missing” Lent and it was frustrating.
Then, there was the second week of Lent—the mountain stories. Abraham and Isaac, and Jesus, Peter, James and John at the Transfiguration. They had to leave behind the normal things of life, offer the most precious things they had as sacrifice and be open to what God had to reveal to them. They didn’t understand what they experienced—especially the Apostles. They would have to wait for it to be over and to be looking back on it for it to make sense to them.
I don’t have any delusions that God put me on jury duty to teach me a lesson, but I do think that God offers lessons in every situation we find ourselves. This time-out was an opportunity to learn patience, to attend to the things that are put before me (not what I think I need to attend to) and that life will, in fact, continue even if I’m not there managing and orchestrating every little aspect of it.
Lent is a graced time—a time to look deeply into our hearts with Jesus to see what attitudes, habits, behaviors and assumptions that we’ve adopted need to be rooted out of us as we prepare to renew our Baptismal vows at Easter so that we can fully live our Baptismal call. Ephphatha (Mk 7:34)—be opened to hearing what God has to say to you this Lent in whatever circumstances you find yourself.