This post is excerpted from Mary Haft's just completed book, Staying the Course: The Making of a Marine Mom
The season of Lent marks a moment in which one can choose to look at life anew; to journey on to greater purpose, deeper love. Returning from morning Mass today, Ash Wednesday, the marking of a Lenten journey, I was reminded of a moment three years ago that forever re-shaped the construct of Lent for me. Three years ago, on that Ash Wednesday I was preparing for my son's deployment to Afghanistan as a Weapons Platoon Commander, Infantry Officer in the Marine Corps. Those were days when I kept prayer close and God even closer. Holding a heart so heavy with this impending deployment, fear and anxiety a constant presence, I sat through that Mass feeling a connection with the very thought of Mary, mother of Jesus. Entering this spiritual season of Lent, the journey of Mary, in her walk with her suffering son, Jesus, became an anguish that I felt I understood in a way I could never bear to imagine before. The prophet Simeon told Mary, when Jesus was just a baby, cautioning her about the greater message this life represented and the pain that was ahead, that "into your heart, too, a sword shall pass". The thought of what that journey was, to imagine a mother accompanying her son to his agonizing death is pain beyond measure.
I was facing in to the knowledge that my son might lose his life on this foreign land, so far away from all of us. To imagine the courage and the faith and the anguish Mary bore to witness her son's suffering on that long walk to the hillside where he would die on the cross gave me the strength to know that I, too, could bear whatever might come.
At Mass's end, after our foreheads had been marked with ash, I waited to speak to the priest. Looking pleadingly at him for some kind of word from God, I told him that my son would be deploying within the next months to Afghanistan. He paused, then looked at me with compassionate eyes, and with this wisdom: "Then that will be your cross to bear". And in that moment, forever changed my construct of Lent. That is what this somber, reflective Lenten journey should be: what cross can you carry? What cross will you bear? It's not about giving up candy or coffee or some momentary pleasure. What can you carry for greater good?
Let that concept be an abiding cross that all can carry. Use these reflective days to create a construct for good. Let this spiritual journey deepen your own walk of faith.
~ Mary Haft