At the start of this season of Lent, we might ponder three questions that, when answered, reveal something both about ourself and our relationship to God. What is it that nourishes and gives us life? What do we adore and reverence on this human journey? Do we feel safe and protected from the forces of harm and violence?
Nourishment! On the physical level, there are several key ingredients, such things as meat and potatoes and sauerkraut. On the psychological level, we are nourished by affirmation and friendship and a good self-image. And spiritually, it is prayer, fasting and service that promote health in our relationship to God, ourself and others.
The book of Deuteronomy records the promise of land flowing with milk and honey. The people in turn placed their basket
before the altar as a symbol that they knew where all life and holiness came from. Jesus, too, though hungry, did not put his faith in turning stones into bread. His life was so much more than physical nourishment.
Worship has to do with adoration, a looking at someone or something with reverential awe. We are given choices here. We can genuflect to power and domination, idolizing control over others. We can bow before prestige and fame, asserting our egos. Jesus would have none of this. God alone is to be served.
During Lent, many Christians find the Stations of the Cross to be a fruitful spiritual exercise. By journeying with Jesus in his Passion, we grow in our appreciation of our salvation in Christ and in gratitude for what God has done to save us. Our refrain in this exercise and a refrain that might well be a daily prayer is: “We adore thee, O Christ, and we bless thee, because by the Holy Cross thou hast redeemed the world” Here is the object of our adoration: Jesus, God became man!
Protection! A friend of mine keeps saying that there are two things that people need: to feel important and to feel safe. Are we under God’s protection? The briefest of reflections reveals that we are all vulnerable to harm from many quarters, be it terrorism, a car accident, some physical illness or psychological hurt. We are tempted to ask God to exempt us from our human condition — lest we dash our foot against the stone. But we know that if we walk barefoot in summer and hit a raised piece of sidewalk, we are going to cry out in pain.
Yet, God does protect us. Though we suffer human tragedies, God will liberate us from sin and death through the obedience of Jesus.
Nourishment! Worship! Protection! These are Lenten themes that deserve prayer. These are themes that spell out the quality of our spiritual life.
Questions for reflection
1. What nourishes your spirit?
2. Is adoration a significant part of your faith life?
3. Do you feel safe and important in the Christian community?
Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.