This year March falls entirely in the heart of Lent. Ash Wednesday and the first Sunday were in February; Palm/Passion Sunday is the first week of April. That means that the central Lent Sundays fall in March. These are the weeks where we have made it past the initial energy of the beginning, but have not yet gotten to the growing excitement of Holy Week. These are the weeks of keeping up the disciplines of Lent without the added boost of special events to give encouragement. It is a time of practicing and building up our spiritual sensibilities, even when the reason for doing so can seem a bit distant.
In this way, it reminds me of one of the other things most associated with March – Spring Training. Baseball players are in Florida and Arizona, practicing and playing exhibition games. At one time players needed to get themselves into shape, but contemporary athletes stay in shape year-round. Instead, Spring Training is a time to get timing down, work on smaller details of game play, and be in some game situations. Yet the goal – the regular season and more ultimately the playoffs – are a long way off. The work done in Spring Training – defensive alignments, smoothing out mechanics – might not seem all that important. Yet those little things inevitably do make a difference at a key point down the road.
I’m not sure we can make a direct comparison of spiritual life and a baseball season, as life does not have the clear-cut rhythm of a baseball season, but there is something to the sense that the small acts of spiritual discipline that we do in the heart of Lent do in fact shape our spiritual health throughout the year. The extra few minutes now in the normal times do allow us to more fully enter the good news of Easter come April and to live our lives as disciples throughout the year.