It’s lent again! We are going to hear readings that you have heard before and do things that are not new at all; yet, this is not simple repetition. It’s a grace period that has been offered us for a fresh start. Besides, who it’s bad to repeat? At times it takes many repetitions to reach the core of things. By doing one thing over and over again, but with an attentive eye, you are amazed at the new insights you get from what appears to be ordinary. Finally, it all comes down to what you choose to do with this period. So, let’s see how the word of God can help us to exercise our liberty in the manner that enables us to move forward.
Deuteronomy 26: 4–10
Psalm 91: 1–2, 10–15
Romans 10: 8–13
Luke 4: 1–13
The place of Satan this Lent
Every first Sunday of Lent we read about the temptation of Jesus in the desert. Talking of temptations, obviously you think of Satan too. And caught in some mischief, you want to attribute the responsibility to him. That’s how he ends up occupying big space among us: in our families, in schools or in places of work. We raise him to the rank of architect of what we do -we make him popular. Some people may even go as far as to see Lenten season as time of waging war against Satan. Well, if we are going to pass our 40 days in war we risk missing out the grace of Lent. Wouldn’t there be a better way of looking at it? I see some promise in the Gospel.
Temptations, facing my liberty
What are temptations? Here I call them offers or solicitations, which may mean also possibilities from which one can choose. We meet plenty of them in a day. Jesus had three. Satan challenges him: you are starving? But with your power as son of God you can have stones turn into bread! Secondly, Satan shows Jesus the beauty of Jerusalem, sign of power and domination, and tries to strike a deal with him; just a little bow before me and the rest is yours. No deal! But Satan is as tenacious as any a good businessman, he has another offer right away: why can’t you try some summersault from this high point of the temple, and when you land unharmed, the impressed crowds will just be flocking to you -a super star messiah! Despite his art of marketing, Satan doesn’t manage to get Jesus buy any of his products. What sense can we make out of this?
Remember, this takes place just before Jesus begins his ministry. The temptations just imply that Jesus has a mine of possibilities that are open to him. However, he doesn’t jump at everything before him, he knows what he wants, and so, he chooses to carry out his mission in the manner that’s pleasing to his Father. By saying yes to his father, he says no to Satan. There I find inspiration for Lent.
My Lenten Journey
Firstly, I become aware of the dignity in which we have been created as human beings. Our creator, Almighty though he is, doesn’t put his hand on us in the manner of bossing. His might manifests itself in the gentleness of his respectful love. We are not puppets or robots to be controlled at the press of a button. He leaves us to choose him freely, if we want to. Liberty is one mark of our dignity. That’s why I see Lent no longer as an affair with Satan, but a time to reflect on the precious gift I have been given -my liberty – and see how I can make the best out of it.
But what does it mean to be free?
Don’t tell me what do to do; am I not free to do what I want, when I want, and as I want? We may have heard that before, and probably we ourselves may have used these words at one time. It’s confusing liberty and libertine. A free person knows how to select from the many possibilities open to him, and he’s also able to commit himself to the choice he has made. On the contrary, a person under the whims of the moment lives in the illusion of total liberty, in fact, he’s a slave. Total liberty does not exist. When I exercise my liberty to say yes to one thing, in some way, it implies saying no to another thing. Libertine robs us of the dignity of choice -so, it dehumanises.
At the beginning of Lent, with the temptations of Jesus in the desert, I become aware of the multiple openings in my life, and I’m even prouder that I can pick out some and leave out others. But how do I arrive at a well-considered choice? A hint in the first reading.
When we lose track of where we are coming from, we risk losing our direction too. Then, we can understand the wisdom in the first reading. It’s a warning to the descendants of the ancient slaves of Egypt; don’t forget where your fathers and mothers came from -slaves in Egypt. When they cried for help, God liberated them and walked with them in the desert for many years. That’s how you, their children, finally find yourselves in this land freedom. Remember the story and be wise in the decisions you make today. Isn’t that beautiful?
We too have our own stories of God’s faithful love in our lives, manifested through persons we have crossed paths with: parents, siblings, teachers, friends, spouse… And the Lent is that quietness we need in order to relish our memories, and thus, be in the position to make right choices. Once we realise the marvels the Lord has done in our lives, it becomes a lot easier to make right decisions; we choose to remain faithful to the one who has been faithful to us. That’s why, as a way of concluding, I find the following words quite fitting: “…I have set life and death, blessing and curse before you. Now choose life—so that you and your descendants will live” (Deuteronomy 30:19). Choosing life, there you have the project for Lent.
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