Summary: Lent should be a springtime in our spiritual lives.
First Sunday of Lent - Year C
February 25th, 2007
* Deut. 26:4-10
* Rom 10:8-13
* Lk. 4:1-13
The Gift of Lent
Jack, the painter, often would thin his paint so it would go further. So when the Church decided to do some deferred maintenance, Jack was able to put in the low bid, and got the job. As always, he thinned his paint way down with turpentine.
One day while he was up on the scaffolding -- the job almost finished -- he heard a horrendous clap of thunder, and the sky opened. The downpour washed the thinned paint off the church and knocked Jack off his scaffold and onto the lawn.
Jack knew this was a warning from the Almighty, so he got on his knees and cried: "Oh, God! Forgive me! What should I do?" And from the sky, a mighty voice thundered: "REPAINT! AND THIN NO MORE!"
The Gift That Is Lent
Another season of Lent has started. Another opportunity for deepening our lives is being given to us. My prayer is that all of us will be able to receive the gift that God is offering to us during these special days. Well, what is that gift? What gift does God have for me, for you? More life, deeper life, a fuller life. That’s a very powerful and wonderful gift, isn’t it? God wants us to live with the deepest, fullest life possible. That’s really what this season of Lent is all about.
We get this gift by being open to receiving it, by wanting it with all our hearts, by asking for it over and over again, by waiting in the presence of the loving Giver. In the opening prayer for today’s Eucharist we hear these words: Father, through our observance of Lent, help us to understand the meaning of your Son’s death and resurrection, and teach us to reflect it in our lives.
New Year’s Resolutions?
We should be very clear about one thing. Lent is not a second chance to see if we can keep our New Year’s resolution. Lent is not really about giving up this or that, no matter how hard this or that may be. There may be a place for some kind of self-sacrifice but only if that self-sacrifice is done with an eye on receiving the gift of deeper life from God.
Giving up desserts or your favourite television show is not at the heart of this season. But if giving up something helps you to become more receptive to receiving the gift of deeper life from God, then, by all means, give it up. If television is mainly just a distraction, keeping you from spending time with others whom you love or who need your care, then give it up.
Many of us need to do one very important thing in order to ready ourselves to receive God’s gift-we need to empty ourselves. We need to let go of whatever is threatening to take over our lives. That is going to be very different for each of us. Many of us have allowed ungoverned, uncontrolled and constant activity to effectively push out any empty space in our lives. Some of us are still trying to consciously fill ourselves up with too many things, too much food and drink, too much entertainment, too much work, too much shopping and so on. You can complete your own personal list.
God does want us to pay attention to our desires, but not to our superficial desires. God wants us to pay attention to our very deepest desires-for love, for compassion, forgiveness, mystery, peace, silence. In other words, God wants to give us all the gifts we really need in order to live the loving and God-filled lives all of us really want to live.
How does the story of the temptation of Jesus fit into all of this? In a nutshell, the temptations were all about one thing-trying to get Jesus to live in a worldly way instead of in a Godly way. That’s not so different from our own struggle. Nothing could be easier than to live our lives totally immersed in our everyday activities with only the occasional thought of what it all really means. The spiritual aspect of our lives does not often force itself upon us. So, Lent is a time when we are asked to once again make space for what is at the heart of our lives.
Above all, Lent is a time of renewal. We call it the "springtime" of the Liturgical Year, and ask God to help us with the important task of inner renewal. Lent is the promise of a new start for all of us, not a time of discouragement or sorrow. Rather, it is a time when we rejoice that God is a God of refreshment, of new life, of new beginnings. And these promises are not empty ones but are full of the power that comes from the Christ who comes back to life in resurrection. During Lent, we can have confidence that Christ is bringing us with him into a new and wonderful life.