Last year, I had the unique opportunity to fly on a mission trip as the co-pilot. The captain of that small plane invited me to take that seat during the flight, an invitation I did not turn down since being a pilot had been a dream of mine once upon a time.
It was a unique and extraordinary experience. I enjoyed the flight immensely, especially the conversation with the captain, who patiently explained what the different instruments of that small plane did. He taught me that, to maintain the airplane's stability, the engine had to consume simultaneously the same amount of fuel from the two tanks on each wing. He gave me the task of giving him the instrument readouts. He explained that a pilot observes the shadow of the clouds on the earth’s surface to avoid them and to know where to fly the plane. We talked a lot during the flight’s three hours and 20 minutes, and I was invited to share a bar of Swiss chocolate – which was most enjoyable.
I explained that I didn't know how he could understand conversations with other airplane pilots or the control tower, to which the captain replied, "Once you learn the jargon, you understand what they’re saying." Finally, with the help of the plane’s instruments, the pilot located the runway in the middle of nowhere and made a superb landing with the great skill he had acquired.
Why do I share this experience as a topic of reflection in this Lenten season? Reflecting on that flight, I said to myself: "how incredible it is: to fly with a good pilot; to know the role that I’ve been assigned; to follow the instructions I’ve been given; to enjoy a good conversation about life; to savor good chocolate; and to accept that the flight was good, even if turbulent, because we put our trust in someone who knows more than we do and who will take us to the right destination.”
Lent invites us to reflect on our journey through life and review with what coordinates we have lived it. How many times have I taken the wrong seat, thought myself the captain, and flown alone? How often have I forgotten to communicate with the Lord and ignored him, flying along unknown routes filled with turbulence, guided by pride and a lack of humility?
How often have I preferred not to abide by what the instruments of my heart and conscience told me because I believed myself to be a super-captain? How often have I ignored those instruments the Lord gave me to find and recognize life's true and proper direction?
How many times have I been unable to make projects a reality because I have flown in circles, unable to find the landing strip because pride and arrogance made me lose track of the path Jesus has for his projects so that they can land safely and bear fruit?
Lent is a time of grace that is offered to us to reflect: to recognize the proper role God has planned for each one in this beautiful journey through life and to recognize the proper place that Jesus should have in my heart and life.
Lent is a time that the Church offers us so that we let God, who is love, do true maintenance of our hearts and conscience with the instruments of fasting, almsgiving, and prayer – just as the machine of an airplane is regularly maintained so that it can fly. Through the instrument of fasting, we learn to deprive ourselves of that which ultimately brings misery. Almsgiving helps us grow detached from what we possess so that we share it and help others. Prayer is the instrument that helps us learn and practice the "jargon" of Jesus' vocabulary – prayer helps us hear and understand his coordinates for our life. By learning that language, born from he who is love and who created us by love, we learn to converse with him, Jesus.
During this time, we also must recognize our need for the sacrament of confession to let Jesus clear our soul from the darkness caused by the clouds of sin – darkness that hides from us the face of the Lord in our neighbor and blinds us – to be able to see all of God’s manifestations of his infinite love in our lives.
The purpose of Lent is to prepare us, that is, to let Jesus prepare us for the celebration of Holy Week, which culminates in the triumph of life over death, of love over sin, of light over darkness: the triumph of Jesus!
To celebrate this triumph, we cannot ignore the coordinates of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the solitude of Holy Saturday because, if we do not live those days of detachment with Jesus – of detachment from selfishness – we will not be able to experience life in Jesus.
Let us remember that none of us is the captain; we are each co-pilot in this journey of life, which has as its goal the perfect Love of Jesus in eternal life. The captain’s chair in my heart belongs to Jesus, who guides my life, and to whom all life belongs. Only with him can victory be established so that our life may become an anticipation of the eternal life that he offers us and to which only he can guide us.