1 SUNDAY LENT B 2012
It’s Lent—and your covenant is “up for renewal.” A covenant is an agreement that binds us into a relationship based on honor. The word “Lent” itself means Spring time, a time of renewal, refreshing. The first reading from Genesis emphasizes this theme of new beginnings. The account of the flood reads like a new Creation story: the receding waters, the association of animals with humans, the blessing to be fruitful and multiply.
A new covenant is sealed with the sign of the rainbow.
The waters in the story of the flood, destroyed evil and saved the good. It offered a totally new beginning, a Spring time. Baptism for the Christian carries with it that promise; the destruction of evil and a new birth. During lent we have removed the water fonts once again to remind us that we are in the desert to struggle with the powers of evil and prepare to receive the Spirit through renewal of Baptism at Easter.
The gospel speaks of Christ being driven by the Spirit into the desert where he is confronted by Satan. I found it interesting to discover that Satans in the history of the
Temptations are always there and are difficult to overcome. The day we feel that we are no longer subject to temptation, we really should take our pulse because we will probably be dead. Any realistic person dreads being put to the test, but it is something we all have to endure. It is a coin with the flip side being an invitation to virtue.
It is so easy for us to say to others, “Just say no,” but it is difficult when we are the ones who are tempted. The complex aspect of temptations is that they all contain an element of attractiveness; an element of good. All of God’s creation contains beauty. We human beings pervert that beauty and turn something that is good into bad. For example, the human body is beautiful; pornography is a perversion of the beauty; it short-circuits the purpose of the beauty which is to draw into communion; where there is no communion- the other is viewed as an object. Another example, there are wonderful medications to help people who suffer from anxiety attacks, depression. Yet the same medications can destroy lives through addictive behaviour.
All sin is attractive, if it weren’t attractive we wouldn’t be tempted by it. Eve looked upon the fruit and “it was pleasing to the eye.”
Battling temptation humanizes us, just as it did Jesus in the desert. Indeed, battling temptation is meant for our strengthening not our destruction. And in the end, “What does not destroy me makes me stronger.” (Nietzsche)
What are the wild beasts ? Anything that threatens our life and waits to devour us. Anything that fills us with fear, makes us insecure and consumes our hope.
We may face the desert experience of unemployment, illness, hurting relationships, failure, sin, discouragement. The wild beasts seem to be like a lion crouched, waiting for me to weaken and to lie down with a broken spirit. We need to be equipped to face the desert with the spiritual tools for survival.
Jesus' instruction in today’s Gospel contains two points. The first is to "reform" our lives. The second is to "believe in the gospel." "To reform" means to recognize the evil in our lives and to turn our back on it. We are aware of the evil tendencies that occasionally mess up our lives. For example, we are aware of selfishness that puts our comfort ahead of others' needs. We are aware of pride that keeps us from admitting our faults. We are aware of laziness that keeps us from helping others. "To reform" means to face up to these evil tendencies in our lives and to do something about them. Jesus tells us to "believe in the gospel." This means to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that he came to save us. It means to seek out Jesus and to receive from him forgiveness and healing. One writer Killian McDonnell says: "No one (man) will celebrate the mystery of Christ in joy if he does not first recognize in sorrow that he is a sinner."
As Christ entered into that desert he knew that He was not alone. Faith is the spiritual tool that defends us in desert times. Our freedom necessitates the testing that reveals where the heart's true treasure lies. Only the accidentals of the testing differ for each of us. The heroes of faith down to the present day triumph over their trials because they share the single-minded faith of Jesus. A person with a divided heart, on the other hand, easily fails in a test of faith.
When we can't see the outcome of a situation, faith tells us that God can. Faith brings us a sense of peace among the wild beasts that stalk us.
Prayer and fasting for Christ were disciplines of His life in the desert to make clear to him that he must rely on the Father. Often in the desert experiences of life we are afraid to stop and listen. Perhaps we are afraid to even admit we are in the desert: we arrive with our motor home that is as big as a house, we have solar panels to run our TV and Fridge. We forget that we are camping. “When this tent in which we are living is folded up, there will be a house built by God.” We are afraid we'll hear the wild beasts and become more aware of our problems. So we keep active, like a mouse on a treadmill going nowhere but at least we don’t have to stop and look at ourselves.
In the desert, Jesus was out of his comfort zone. He had to be listening in the silence of the lonely wilderness. Stepping deeper into the desert can bring us closer to Jesus. We set ourselves up to be more attentive in listening to what God is speaking by carving out quiet prayer times, by fasting and alms-giving.
Perhaps during lent families and individuals could make a commitment to come to mass on a weekday. Or pray the Stations of the Cross with us on a Saturday Morning at Sacred Heart or privately in the church or even at home with your family. Choose one day a week to fast.
Almsgiving: Save some money to share with the poor during the Lenten Campaign. We will have a Special Share Lent Collection on March 25th. Plan now to set aside a gift for the poor of the world through this Development and Peace Collection. Sacrifice luxuries or entertainment that will enable you to be generous. In my mind this is the most critical collection of the year. The litmus test of a Christian is how we care for the poor.
“Holy Spirit, I depend on you to encourage me with the urgency I need
to grow closer to the love of God this Lent.”