Lent is a time to look inwards

Fr. Jason Murphy, in his bi-monthly column, encourages people to listen to the noises inside of them that may forewarn of a breakdown ahead...

To gaze into the opening of O’Reilly’s garage on the hill that led down to Railway Road in the town of Belturbet was akin to staring into the mouth of Hades of Greek mythology of old. to peer into the vast abyss of this place, as you paused on your way, was like gazing into the unending darkness of an otherworld - adjusting your eyes in the bright sunshine to make out the ethereal figures who moved about in the semi darkness within.

Men in oil-covered boiler suits, with spanners in their hands, emerged from under the bonnets of cars and from the depths of the pit from where they peered with the light of a torch at snapped springs wrought by the countless potholes, to the sounds of Erneside Radio playing out in the background. Men, who with skill, hammered gently out the bumps and bangs in the body of a once majestic Opel Commodore to restore again her curvaceous lines.

The sight of the bright sparks from a soldering iron illumining the darkness were like a display of fireworks, from which we were warned to shield our eyes, as an apprentice stood behind a welding mask and mended the wounded body of an Opel Manta who near met its maker in a collision on the bad corner at Annagh graveyard, carrying a young man and his lover who got distracted on the way home from the Lakeland dancehall on a dark November night.

It was part of our everyday to stand and gaze in our passing, into the depths of this workshop, in the shadow of the Leaving Cert boys from St Bricin’s who perhaps hoped of one day taking up such an apprenticeship. Stopping along the way, as you enjoyed the refreshment of a super – split, when it was as a child you had time to linger long, taking in the aroma of the spraying that wafted through the air; time to stand and watch these men at their work sending the sparks flying into the darkened depths beneath the corrugated iron roof above.

Here within these men could make all things new - a bump, a scrape, a shattered window screen, light bulbs that no longer shone in the darkened nights, holes along the wheel rim eaten away by the insidious rust that was part and parcel of the wear and tear of cars in the 1980s. They could recognise a noise from within that sounded a warning of something gone wrong, something deep within the inner workings of the engine that foretold of a break down along the road when help might not be at hand.

In this time of Lent we are asked to listen more carefully to the workings within, to the noises drowned out by the incessant sounds of the everyday. Noises that we choose not to give attention to, that cry out from underneath the bonnet of the passing superficiality of each and everyday, noises that forewarn of a breakdown ahead.

Lent is a while in the springtime of the year given to stand and stare, to look inwards to see how it is we can enhance the quality of our living, not just for ourselves but for those with whom we share the journey of our lives. This path of introspection, of asking ourselves the difficult questions, of examining the hidden corners deep within is not meant to be a retreat in to an individualistic journey of self -improvement without connection to the world, it is meant to make us better able to engage in the lives of others and in the communities in which we live, to be better Christians, more Christ like in our living by shedding all that which prevents us from living in the image and likeness of God.

Like those who work beneath the bonnet at the inner workings of a car, every so often we must delve within, to search out the noises that make themselves known as we journey along, noises that foretell of a break down ahead. Lent is a time for repair and renewal, a profound challenge of 40 days that if we enter into will make us better versions of ourselves. So let us this Lent not be afraid to stand and stare in to the darkened abyss that lies within, for there it is as in the workshop of yore, that all things, are once again made new.