Psalm 69:1-23, (24-30), 31-38; Jeremiah 5: 1-9; Romans 2:25 – 3:18; John 5:30-47
My first thoughts about Lent involve interior explorations—forgiveness of others and oneself, reflections on past life and aspirations for the future. But now some of the Psalmist’s complaints about his enemies and his tribulations sounded wrong in my mind’s ear. I suddenly thought, perhaps the self-examination and repentance that seem so suitably Lenten might give way to that popular phrase, “It’s not about me.” Perhaps, instead of going inside oneself this Lent, one could efface the self, direct energy outward, and concentrate rather on the other, whoever s/he might be.
If it’s not about me, it must be about you, and us—about community, about listening (and really hearing and understanding) more than we talk. What a blessing to suspend interior monologue, to stop rehearsing our own errors and wounds. Perhaps Lent can be about getting us out of our personal box and into communion and interaction--redressing the attention not given, the thanks not expressed, the respect not demonstrated, the support felt but not acted upon. Maybe this year it means changing our subject: not “me, me, me,” but basically, everyone else in the wide world.
It would never do to become self-satisfied, not in Lent or any other season. Wasn’t that the problem with the Pharisees? If you have not read Albert Camus’s The Fall, I recommend it as an astringent treatment for self-regard, appropriate to Lent, the quintessential time of humility.
--Laura Durand is Professor Emerita of French Studies at Brown University, and sings alto in St. Margaret’s Adult Choir.