July 15, 2024

By Shannan McQuade

The season of Lent is often associated with sacrifices that are done intentionally in order to bring us closer to Christ. But Lent also presents an opportunity of introspection and healing. When considering the austerity of Lent, Father Tyler Mattson (parochial vicar in Pastorate 17) compared it to the image of the desert.

“The desert is a place of scarcity, but in Scripture, it’s also a place of encounter,” Father Mattson said. “When we are stripped away of our comforts, we become open to receiving the Lord.”

In this solemn time, we are given an invitation to step into the desert with the Lord and open ourselves to receive him and encounter him. In a particular way, Lent presents us with the opportunity to reflect on the areas where we might need healing—more specifically, looking at the ways in which we might need healing from wounds from past relationships.

Step into the desert

During Lent, we can step into the desert and allow Christ to encounter us in the hurt of wounds from past relationships. Father Mattson says the first step though is to recognize the hurt and allow that wall to be broken down, that we might encounter Christ.

“It’s easy to find ways to ignore our hurt and our pain,” he said. “God wants to teach us things in moments of uncomfortableness.”

It’s easy to look inward on ourselves and find the areas where we are hurt, but it’s harder to look outward to Christ and allow him to enter into that place and provide his abundant love and healing.

Father Mattson says the loss of a relationship does come with a certain amount of grief.

“When we give our heart to someone, we are giving part of ourselves that we can’t get back, so there will be something missing,” he said. But we must focus on the step into the desert. “Being in the desert post-relationship allows us to focus on the pain and encounter the Lord.”

While entering into the desert can feel desolate and lonely, it’s an important step where we can realize that the Lord is in the desert with us. He is there to encounter us and heal our hurt.

Finding the desert

These ideas paint a picture in our heads of how healing might occur, but it’s also important to practically look at how we get there. Father Mattson encourages someone who is hurting to find ways to cut out media in their life. He says we should “work to create the desert.” We must find ways to enter into the desert to be encountered.

It’s good to recognize and live in the hurt of those wounds because, as Father Mattson said, “When you approach suffering with the lens of love, we find Christ.” So, although the desert seems desolate and lonely, it is also a quiet space in which we come to present our suffering to Christ, so that we might experience and encounter his love.

Father Mattson also suggested that we replace media with other friendships that will build us up and show us the love of Christ.

“I know I’m going to spend eternity with God, but God has also put me in this Church where there is a taste of eternity now,” he said.

The community we are gifted and surround ourselves with is filled with people Christ has given us to show us his love. We don’t have to carry our cross by ourselves. Christ has given us the Church and her community to walk with us in our journey.

It’s also important to realize that there are entities of the Church that can specifically help with healing. Father Mattson encourages us to remember there are some things we cannot do alone. It’s important to seek out counseling and spiritual direction if needed. The Lourdes Center is a great gift to our diocese that can help those who need further love and guidance.

Heal your heart

We aren’t meant to be in the desert forever. We are called to the desert that we might heal, but we also have to remember the glory of the Resurrection.

“We have to spend time in the tomb in order to reach the Resurrection,” he said. “We have to feel the things we need to feel and experience the silence of Holy Saturday.”

While we must sit in the uncomfortableness and experience the silence of the tomb, the tomb isn’t forever. Christ conquered death, and the glory of the Resurrection comes on Sunday morning. In this time of reflection and healing, it’s important to recognize that it isn’t forever.

“The healing is the slow recognition that the Lord sees you and loves you,” Father Mattson said, “and you have the hope that it is possible.”

Shannan McQuade is the director of faith formation at St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Sioux Falls. She holds degrees in theology and evangelization and catechesis and is pursuing her master’s degree in theology.