First Stunday in Lent

We are daily given accounts of catastrophes, collisions, explosions, shootings in which there are multiple casualties. The scenes are ones of mayhem and chaos.  Rushing onto the scene are doctors, EMTs and first responders.   They are models of composure and calm, swiftly getting down to meeting the needs of victims.  They don’t go running off in all directions, but employ the practice of triage, the selection and choice of acting where their help will be most beneficial.  It is not a question of first come, first served.  It may unfortunately not even be a question of who is in the worst condition.  Where will the attention and aid be most beneficial, do the most ultimate good?

It requires a lot of experience to be skilled at this practice of triage.  Reading a book may be a start, but it cannot replace hands-on immersion in a number of such incidents.  Advice from experts helps, too.  But a total novice is going to be overwhelmed by the chaos and not know where to begin.

The practice of triage can be found in normal daily life.  We have made (and may still need to make) critical decisions about the direction of our lives.  They have been turning points, moments of conversion, which entail consequences that we couldn’t have predicted.  Do these consequences support or subvert the original choice and decision?  Have I been going on automatic pilot in a direction which is frustrating my original intention?  Am I butting my head against a wall, convinced of the rightness of my intentions and taking satisfaction in the willed effort  for its  own sake?  Are my beliefs freeing me or enslaving me?  Triage is needed.  On the other hand, it is easy enough to adjust my beliefs to focus on the manageable and satisfying, to keep busy and occupied with what stays within a range of comfort and security.  To bandage bruises while someone is bleeding to death.  To take the path well-trod.  We can quiet the pain and distress felt when there is conflict between our actions and beliefs (cognitive dissonance) by changing our beliefs and lowering the bar.  Triage is needed.

Christ’s call at the beginning of Lent is to let our beliefs lead us into the real world of chaos and impermanence, to pass through this world with clarity, objectivity, and freedom enough to bring healing and help where it is most beneficial.  Repent and believe the Gospel of God. It is walking the fine line between a willfulness which feeds off its own strength and a spineless apathy which wrings its hands because nothing can be done.  As we slowly experience and learn how to live led by the Gospel, we become formed and adept in new ways to bring that Gospel into our lives in the world.  Repentance in the light of belief; belief expressing itself in repentance and conversion.  Our beliefs are not demands we place on God and the world, but demands that God and the world place on us.  Repent and believe.  It is a constant process of rediscovering and testing out who we are. We grow in experience.  Christ suffered … to lead us to God.

 With Christ, we are in the wilderness with wild beasts and angels.  We are neither angels or beasts, but we live in the tension between the flesh and the spirit.  We need to be trained in the art of triage which neither pretends to be angelic and able to do the impossible, nor fatalistically confining itself to laws that bind it to impotence and the inhuman.   We recognize the chaos and impermanence of our lives, the floods and the wilderness which bring us to our limits and even death.  But we are driven here by the Spirit. Put to death in the flesh, we are brought to life in the Spirit.  Repent and believe.  What needs to be done and can be done? Do it.