REFLECT ON SCRIPTURE
LENT I :: Sunday, February 25
Readings -- Gn 2:7-9; 3:1-7; Ps 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 and 17; Rom 5:12-19; Rom 5:12, 17-19; Mt 4:1-11
Reflection by Fr. Michael Guimon, OSM
Ash Wednesday was a sobering reminder – those ashes, smeared on our foreheads, reminded us that there is no running away from the fact that we are human beings: women and men who were born and who will die.
Those ashes reminded us that changes and endings are inevitable for every man and woman. In fact, my sisters and brothers, nothing is perfect, permanently satisfying, or permanently anything. Everything falls apart in time. Every beginning leads to a finale.
Built into all experiences, persons, places, and things IS a life span. Our relationships pass through phases, from romance through struggle to commitment. Then they end with separation or death. Our interest in hobbies or careers passes over a bell-shaped curve of rising interest, cresting and decline. Our bodies age. Our possessions deteriorate. Our memories fade.
Even the world of nature changes. Species of animals disappear. Earthquakes realign the continental plates. Seasons change. And the colorful rose fades after her stunning debut. Death comes along and takes us away as well as those we love and all our achievements.
Ash Wednesday challenged us to face the truth about who we are so that we can live our lives with perspective, in other words, live our true lives as men and women loved by God and called to love one another as much as we love ourselves.
If we haven’t been walking with our God in the cool of the evening, entering the desert on this first week of Lent for forty days gives us the opportunity to return to God, “to reform our lives.”
This Lent don’t be afraid to look death in the face; to grow more comfortable with the fact that everything changes and ends. Jesus met temptation in the desert and came out triumphant. His response to temptation told us that:
it is not bread that gives life:
it is his WORD.
It is not by circus spectacles
that he reveals himself.
It is among the lowly,
the powerless, the crucified,
he reveals himself.
Nor is it by political power
that his kingdom will come.
Jesus met death on the cross and God raised him up on the third day. Jesus will help us get through our own deserts of temptation and sin; our own crosses and dyings.
We do not have to be afraid, we are not alone and today at this Eucharist Jesus will feed us with bread that gives us food for the journey, for our life. There is consolation for us as we begin our journey of Lent, and cast a sober glance over our lives.
We have been given hope!
Jesus has looked into our darkness, and our sinfulness and seen us there and has come to pull us out darkness and free us from sin. As God searched out Adam and Eve, Jesus is searching for us, wanting to bring us home to ourselves.
Lent my friends, is a time to think things over again, to reconsider and to become more aware of our limitations, our mortality and our sinfulness. It is a time, in other words, to remember that our lives can be transformed by grace. Once more, through Christ, God breathes into us as he did Adam, a life-giving Spirit.
We have forty days ahead of us to focus on what is life giving. It’s like going for an eye exam and the optometrist places those adjustable lens over the eyes and keeps asking, “Is it clearer now? How about now?” And again: how about now! We have forty days to choose more positive ways of seeing ourselves, our neighbor, and our God more clearly; and acting more committed to the GOOD NEWS OF JESUS.
Jesus is the lens placed over our eyes. With the eyes of Jesus. We can see that God wants to breathe new life into us again. We notice, too, our sinfulness and our tepid responses to the gospel; We are reminded during Lent that we can break away from sin our tepid responses, by the enabling grace of God.
With Jesus we can come to accept what we have not been able to do on our own.
Jesus didn’t doubt God’s love for him, even when he falls into the hands of those who hate him and reject his message. Jesus kept his eyes fixed on God. We, too, with our eyes fixed on Jesus, can see the difference between what is passing and what has lasting value.
And there’s more:
Lent is also a time to shake loose the love in you, the love that is stronger than sin, the love that casts out fear. Not a vague and insipid love, not a sentimental or teenybopper love. I mean the kind of love that carried Jesus to a cross. I mean a love that can turn the other cheek. A love that does not sulk until apology arrives on bended knee; a love that keeps marriage alive through stress and sickness, through dark nights and infidelity; a love that goes out to those who are different from you in race or face, goes out to the homeless and the loveless, to the gross and the grimy, to all who suffer from acne to AIDS. I mean a love that “is patient and kind, is not jealous or boastful, is not arrogant or rude, does not insist on its own way, is not irritable or resentful, does not rejoice at wrong but in the right, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Such, my friends, is the Lent that leads to Easter, a crucifixion that ends in resurrection, the dying that is Christian living. So then, let your Lent not be simply a physical fasting, an exercise in slimming, John the Baptist’s answer to Jane Fonda. Rather, let your lent this year be large in loving, in the kind of love that can crucify, that did crucify. I promise you, it will take a lot of weight off you: the weight of sin, the weight of guilt.