Follow Me, Satan, Ilya Repin 1895, Russian State Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia.
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. Mark 1:12.
Words and phrases highlighted in red are links to supporting materials.
The word Lent is used in English only for this holy season, but its origin has nothing to do with church seasons. It comes from the Old English word lencten, which means spring, or lengthening of the days. The present day word for spring in German is Lenz, very similar, but the season of Lent in German is Fastenzeit, presumably a time for fasting. Strange our word for this holy season would be pagan in origin. True, in the northern hemisphere it happens in spring, but that is the only connection with what Lent is all about. Jesus had just been baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist. He was revealed as the Son of God, and the Messiah, neither of which did he know until that moment. He was a jobbing carpenter! Those two startling revelations required much reflection, or at least God’s Holy Spirit thought as much, so she drove Jesus into the desert to come to grips with what had happened (always remember that Spirit in Jesus’ Aramaic language has a feminine gender). What on earth would it mean to him to be God’s Son, the Anointed One (Messiah, Christ), as prophesied by Scripture? He was a carpenter! The 40 days must have begun in a cloud of bewilderment. So that should be the starting point for each one of us. I am a retired teacher, you might be an accountant, or bus driver, or cook, or doctor, or artist, or truck driver or anything else. Yet at our baptism, each one of us became an adopted Child, a Daughter, a Son, of God, and as we were also anointed at that time, we too became the Anointed, or Messiah, or Christ to the world. We too are therefore faced with the same question as Jesus, he once, for us, every year: What does it mean? He would have been very familiar with Scripture and what it had to say about the long-promised Messiah. Clearly, here was to be found his new pathway in life, away from the wood and nails (for a short time) and into teaching, helping, fulfilling God’s Word. His job was to fulfill Scripture concerning the Messiah. Our job is to fulfill our potential as Children of God, each with distinct gifts, talents, which lead us into a clear area of life where we can be Christ to the world.
Rainbow over Manhattan, April 13, 2020, Secret NYC, New York, USA.
But are we fulfilling that vocation? And there lies the work for the next 40 days, just as it was for the Lord. And we should not feel so challenged that we do nothing about it. Our first reading today has God promising Noah, and us, that we will never be so challenged that we will be overwhelmed, destroyed even, if we but trust in the Lord. The rainbow was God’s seal on that promise, so we can face Lent with clear eyes and quiet confidence that we will not be alone. But set out on the journey we must, and the goal is found in the second reading today: a clear conscience. It calls for a reconfiguration, a reboot if you like, of our lives to ensure we are headed in the right direction, doing the things which mark us as God’s children, making amends if need be, adapting behaviors possibly, helping others more, supporting those who need it, checking our tongues sometimes, eliminating certain habits maybe, and so on and on for the period of Lent. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow might not be gold, but something much more precious, an inner life, a spirit, clean and refreshed, a clear conscience, to greet the Risen Lord who invites us to share real life with him.
Entering the Gates of Heaven, LetterPile.
Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.
Please forward this webpage to those you think would appreciate it. Thank you.