By Brother Brian Boyle, C.PP.S.
The characters in the readings share at least one thing in common: they are confronting loss and fear. Noah and his family are floating in his ark reflecting on losing everyone in his whole community, and rebuilding his life from the ground up. The Petrine community in Asia Minor suffered losses due to the persecution that they endured from those who find this new religious group threatening. Jesus was driven to the desert by the Holy Spirit reflecting on the loss of a great ally, role model and a beloved cousin at least at this point to incarceration.
Retreat is a natural response to loss and fear. It has happened all throughout history. Elijah retreated into the wilderness after killing Jezebel’s hideous prophets of Baal. The apostles retreated to the upper room after Romans executed their leader. In the winter of 1777–78, George Washington led his Continental Army to retreat to Valley Forge to heal and re-train.
Lent is a great time for retreat and introspection. We have been confronted with the loss of regular daily rhythms, work and worst of all, the loss of our loved ones. When I support family members of loved ones who have passed away, I am usually observing the opposite. Families usually want to make calls, make arrangements, put information out on social media, etc. If we take time for this retreat and introspection, good things can happen. God made a covenant with Noah, the Petrine community heard this epistle and it gave them hope to pray, worship and do ministry together. In the wilderness, Jesus found support through the angels, became closer to parts of nature that could have harmed him, and most importantly, launched his ministry.
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Brother Brian Boyle, C.PP.S., is a hospital chaplain in Northwest Indiana. He is also the associate director of Companions (lay associates) of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.