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As Lent begins, God ‘draws back the curtain,’ allowing glimpses of the great mystery to unfold

      Back in early January, my wife Sara, my cousin Angie, our life-long family friend Denise and I drove up to Door County, Wisc. to celebrate my 65th birthday. One evening, around 8:30, we drove up to the tip of the peninsula to Newport State Park. The park is a designated International Dark Sky park. That means there are no lights, and at night the place is, well, dark. Consequently, on clear moon-less nights the sky is the show.

      All those stars! Never in my life have I seen so many stars so clearly. We were able to see the Milky Way. We were able to see stars all the way down to the horizon. The stars were not just numerous; they were bright, much brighter than at home.

      We were the only people in the park at the time. We had all those stars in the quiet of a winter night to ourselves. “Wow,” we kept saying over and over again. “Unbelievable” and “Fantastic” peppered our conversation as well.

      Then, just 20 minutes or so after our arrival in the park, clouds crept in, and the curtain came down. The show was over. We climbed back into the car, and with Angie at the wheel, we headed back to Country House Resort in Sister Bay.

      Twenty minutes. I’ve spent a lifetime glancing up in the sky at the stars. For just a brief moment in my 65 years, however, the curtain was pulled back, and I was able to see the sky as it really is, not as it is disguised by the ambient light of cities and towns. Twenty minutes.

      Upon arriving home from that trip, I kept thinking about those 20 minutes. Our faith life is analogous to our experience at Newport Park. We pray our prayers, go to Mass, mumble the beads, read the Scriptures, sing the hymns, listen to homilies, ponder the ineffable and try to live lives on the straight and narrow.

      And it all grows dreary and dull.

      Then, out of nowhere, a word catches our ear; a bird flits about us; a rainbow spans the entire horizon; a song stuns us; a smell sends us back to another time; a child delights us; a Scripture verse suddenly pops out at us in a way that Scripture verse has never done so before. And for a brief moment in time, the veil is pulled back and we experience God in a very deep and meaningful way. Yes, we tell ourselves, this way of looking at and living reality makes sense; it is true; it is real. And love bubbles over.

      But the clouds return, and all that is obscured. The mundane returns. We return to our cars, so to speak, and life resumes its course.

      It is those brief moments in our lives that motivate us to keep plowing forward. Just as those stars above our heads are still there, only obscured and dimmed by clouds or ambient light, so God is still there even though we don’t feel him or are discouraged by lack of results in our spiritual efforts.

      When the four of us were there at Newport Park, the stars were the brightest light. The four of us were shadowy figures; the darkness obscuring our faces, our bodies, even. Yes, the four of us were real, but the fours of us – for just a few minutes – were not the ultimate reality. The stars above were the ones giving off light.

      Seems to me that is the way it is with our faith. We confuse the shadows of daily life with what is ultimately real, but now and then something happens that pulls the curtain open, and we are reminded what is ultimately real: God.

      I don’t believe that curtain being drawn back is random or accidental. I believe that God does that to help us. God understands that we mortals need a boost now and then, and God provides it by pulling back the curtain. “See,” God seems to be saying, “this is what is obscured by life. Come, behold the truth.”

      Lent is upon us. The great mystery is about to unfold, and God is once again drawing back the curtain.

      Wow. Unbelievable. Fantastic.

 

      Deacon Mark Plaiss teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, Ill. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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