Michelle Martin

Happy Lent!

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Did anybody besides me notice how dark and gloomy the weather was at the end of January and the beginning of February this year?

We went at least a couple of weeks with no more than fleeting glimpses of the sun. Instead, we got dark clouds, rain and sleet, and, occasionally, to make a change, heavy, wet snow.

Maybe it wasn’t very cold, as winter goes, but I, for one, found it miserable. It was dark in the morning when I got up, and it was hard to tell when the sun rose. The late afternoon and evening dusk just marked a gradual deepening of the darkness. Some of my houseplants even started to suffer from the lack of sun.

Then, in the second week of February, the clouds lifted. The curtain was pulled away from the front of the sun, and the world looked different.

My oldest child and I took a weekend afternoon to visit the Art Institute, walking down Michigan Avenue to get there. The sidewalks were full of people who had given in to the same impulse we did: to get out of the house and enjoy the sun while it shone, despite a chilly breeze off the lake offering a reminder that winter is not done with us yet.

It wasn’t quite the first really warm spring day we get in Chicago — that has an energy all its own, when it seems like every single person in the city comes outside — but it was a promise that that day will come, and it won’t be too long.

That is what I am thinking of this year as Lent starts. For most of us here in northeastern Illinois, the concept of 40 days in the desert is a little theoretical. We know what it means, but it’s not something we’ve ever experienced.

Forty days without sun? When anything above freezing counts as warm weather and the days are short to begin with? That we understand. And we understand the craving for the sun, not just its warmth but also its clear light. Just the sight of it can lift moods.

That’s what Lent is like: It’s a time for us to disconnect from some of the busy-ness of our daily lives, and to prepare ourselves to focus on the mystery of Jesus’ Passion and death, how something that Jesus himself tells us was beyond difficult, something Jesus told his Father he would rather not do, was necessary for our salvation.

Only then can we feel the joy of Easter, like sun coming up the first morning after the clouds have gone away.

Maybe, for those of us raised in the faith who always took the salvation story for granted, it’s a little difficult to feel like we miss Jesus during Lent. Because even if we are preparing for Easter, we know Jesus is there. Just like when we have a long period of gloomy weather, we know the sun is still there. When the clouds clear away, it’s not that the sun comes back; it’s that we can see what was there all the time.

Happy Lent.



  • lent
  • family life