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“Are we there yet?”
This is the question that parents dread to hear, but is frequently on the lips of children during a long road trip—or sometimes even a short one across town.
Parents often dislike this question because there’s usually no answer to it that will satisfy the little ones who ask it. The question also can be a symptom of “impatience syndrome” in our kids, a condition which can easily spread in the close confines of a minivan.
I suspect, though, that some adults may be asking, “Are we there yet?” at this point in the season of Lent.
It started about a month ago, and we still have a couple of weeks to go. Some of us might be starting to chafe under the spiritual disciplines that we took up on Ash Wednesday.
This might especially be true if we’ve chosen, say, to fast from coffee or refrain from being active on social media.
Another question that might be good for us to ask at this point during Lent might be one I heard my now-14-year-old son Michael say when he was a toddler riding in the back of our car: “Are we here yet?”
At the time, his vocabulary and knowledge of English were just starting to blossom. But whether Michael knew it or not, there was much wisdom in his words.
We humans were created by God in time and live from day to day in the time he’s given us. But he’s destined us for eternity, and we make our way there step by step by the choices we make from moment to moment with the help of his grace.
At times, those choices can be warped when our hearts and minds gravitate either too much back toward good, bad or indifferent memories of the past, or forward to dreams or fears we have about the future.
It would be unreasonable to try to block out all thoughts of the past or future when considering choices in the present. Indeed, the lessons of the past, noble dreams and healthy concerns about what is to come can contribute to virtuous choices here and now.
These considerations, placed in proper perspective, can help us enter more fully into whatever present moment in which we find ourselves. Better yet, they can open our hearts to Christ’s presence with us when we face choices, with all of the love, mercy and guidance he offers us to lead us to share in his infinite glory in eternity.
If our Lord is present with us all of the moments of our lives with which he blesses us, it would seem fitting that this presence would be all the more close to the surface when we walk in his footsteps, freely taking on sacrifices, such as our discipline of fasting in Lent.
None of the things from which we might refrain during Lent come anywhere near the completeness of Christ’s sacrifices. But that does not matter to him.
For when we pick up our daily cross and follow him, he is with us in each step we take under its burden. He leads us closer to himself and gives us in the midst of our trials—however relatively insignificant they might be—a share in the joy of his eternal life that dawned for humanity in his resurrection.
But when we fixate our hearts and minds on the past or future—which can happen when we’re more focused on ourselves than others or God—then we’re closing ourselves off in the “here” of the present moment from this joy and its effects in our lives and those around us.
Which is all the more reason for us to ask at this point during Lent, and indeed every day of the year: “Are we here yet?” †