When you are closer to being 50-something, rather than 40-something, as I am, you start to pay attention to numbers. (And I don’t just mean your weight, your blood pressure, and cholesterol numbers.)
Recently I’ve been reflecting on my 40s, and realized that they had a great many similarities to “the 40s” I’ve encountered in my Bible reading and recent spiritual journeying. In other words, they’ve been a real preparation and testing for what God has in store for me next. These days, my personal life is curiously reflecting the liturgical calendar.
But back to the Bible for a moment…
Noah experienced 40 days and nights of rain before the clouds parted. The Hebrew people had 40 years of wandering in the desert before entering the Promised Land. Even Jesus spent 40 days in the desert before his public ministry, not to mention encountering temptation by the devil out there. Am I seeing any patterns here?
Recently, we as a Church have come through 40 days of Lent, in preparation for the celebration of Easter, a liturgical cycle we Catholics repeat annually.
Now, without sharing the annoying details, it is sufficient to say that my life has had its own share of depressing amounts of “rainfall.” At times, there have been extended “desert trials” and, certainly, aimless wandering about. The devil has even tripped me up a time or two. But, still we press on, right? We hope in God’s promises and his mercies being new every morning. (Cf. Lamentations 3:21-24.)
This year, my Lent, while fruitful, had me pining for Easter more zealously than in previous years.
Thankfully, at Easter, I had a real experience of Easter joy bursting forth, and breaking out. Like a new era dawning, the Easter renewal I experienced was more than a day… but a new reality… a new beginning timed to this new stage of life that I’m entering… almost reaching 50 and beyond.
Again, something “liturgical” kept my rapt attention: the Church keeps celebrating the joy of the resurrection long after the Easter candy is gone. In fact, Eastertide, in the liturgical calendar is a 50-day season — longer than the 40 days of Lent — just to prove a point.
The Catechism tells us “beginning with the Easter Triduum as its source of light, the new age of the Resurrection fills the whole liturgical year with its brilliance” (CCC 1168).
This Easter light and joy is ever unfolding and expansive, as we find in the Scripture readings associated with this part of the liturgical cycle. We note the Holy Spirit works overtime to expand and transform the Church from a small band of disciples to a tour de force within the Roman Empire.
This joy is meant to expand our own lives as well, transforming us by the power of the Holy Spirit being unleashed in new ways.
The Catechism continues, “Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the ‘Feast of feasts,’ the ‘Solemnity of solemnities,’ just as the Eucharist is the ‘Sacrament of sacraments’…. The mystery of the Resurrection, in which Christ crushed death, permeates with its powerful energy our old time, until all is subjected to him” [Bold emphasis mine] (CCC 1169).
Got that? The power of the Resurrection permeates and energizes our “old” time.
Through Jesus’ glorious redemption of us, the old is passing, the new is coming. What’s “old” about us, paradoxically, is being changed.
There is a quantum leap being made in my life these days.
From a time of planting to a time of harvesting… from a time of preparation to a time of fulfillment… from a time of waiting and wondering, to a time of gratefully experiencing the ride as well as the ultimate destination.
My children are older now. (I have two in their 20s, the other 16.) The “Mommy” I once was is morphing into the mature “Mom” I am. Indeed, the shift is on, and with it, entire new avenues are opening up in my life, giving me more time for prayer, for pursuing new passions, and for work and ministry of a different sort from my Mommy years.
I am just beginning to savor the joy of life as it expands into my 50s. Okay, call it maturity, or hormones, or settling into my own skin. But I call it joy. If fifty is the “downside of the hill” in our youth-entrenched culture, I ought to be picking up speed!
Here’s one more encouraging thought.
I often find the number “50” mentioned in the scripture referencing “jubilee.” The Jubilee came after 50 years. It was a time of deep joy and blessing, of freedom and forgiveness.
Our liturgical calendar places the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Church at Pentecost at 50 days past Easter.
Our society celebrates 50th anniversaries of marriages and birthdays. Even businesses make note of such a milestone.
I’m still pondering all these things. I’m not making any grand predictions about what’s coming next in my life. But I am looking to embrace this next phase of life, and mothering, as the phase that interprets everything in terms of the radiant light of Easter, and looks eagerly for what the Holy Spirit is up to. Everything, every day, has more meaning when seen in that light.
You may think, what’s the big deal? Isn’t this the normal course of life for a Christian?
Well, let’s just say, yes, I knew this before, but now I know it. The one thing maturity teaches you is that there is a heck of a difference between knowing something intellectually, and knowing something by experience.
Lord Jesus, let me live these 50 days, and all my 50s, with Easter joy: jubilant, radiant, and with deep gratitude for all that’s in store! Amen! Alleluia!