One of the things we think about (or, at least, should think about) during the season of Lent is what we are doing with our lives while we still have them. Even if a person lives to be 100, times races by. The pages of the calendar turn rapidly. And those who are reflective (remember, Lent is a season of self-reflection and self-discovery) often wonder if we are making the most of time while we can.
Part of that reflection is inward: Are we savoring life, enjoying relationships, celebrating love, finding meaning, even having fun? Those are legitimate questions. Jesus himself said: “I have come that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)
Part of the experience of reflecting, however, has to be outward (otherwise we become self-absorbed and narcissistic): Are we using our lives to enhance life for others? Are we settling for making a living, or are we determined also to make a difference? Again, Jesus advised: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)
I was chatting with a physician in New York some time ago, a wonderfully gifted practitioner of medicine, a devoted man of faith who is active in his local synagogue, a philanthropist, and an author who is in dialog with a publisher about a manuscript he has written on the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. He showed me the manuscript and told me all about its thesis. I was impressed. It was brilliantly researched. I said enthusiastically: “When this comes out, you’re going to be on Oprah!” (Yes, I know Oprah is no longer on daily TV – but he got my drift.) The physician answered with a phrase that most of us hate to hear. He said: “When you reach OUR age....” (That one stung.) “When you reach our age,” he said, “you don’t do things for fame any more. You do them because you want your life to make a difference.”
Why did Jesus do what he did? Why did he live as he lived and loved as he loved and, at the end, even die as he died? Did He do it to be famous? That question is too foolish to even merit an answer. Jesus spent his life as he did in order to make a difference... in order to make the world better and to make people better. In His living and in his dying, he showed us what life and faith mean. And two thousand years later, lives are still better and stronger because of the investments He made.
None of us will ever be called upon to do what Jesus did. But, like that discerning doctor, we all do have a chance to “make a difference.” Lent is a time for reflecting, a time for asking the questions: “What am I doing with my life that makes a difference for others?” “How am I using my time while I still have it?”