Our readings open with the comforting image of God placing his bow in the heavens and declaring that never again shall he destroy man for his wickedness. God is for us. The bow could be seen as a prefigurement of the Father’s gift of Christ. Christ is the weapon against the forces of sin and death and God has won this battle in full and has placed his bow forever in the heavens.We have only to participate in his great victory.
What might you do for Lent? The church presents the account of Jesus going into the desert to draw near the Father. Here, in his humanity, he is tempted by Satan so as to emerge a stronger and more focused man. God extends this same invitation to each of us. Christ chose 40 days so as to align himself with the great periods of purification of old. He was thinking of the 40 days of the flood and the 40 years of wandering in the desert. He was aligning himself with our weakness so as to be fully for us and our salvation. The desert is a place of broad expanse and proffers reflection. It is both stark in its dryness and dramatic in its beauty. In this, it mirrors the soul of every person on the spiritual journey. We too are asked to go into the desert and listen to God’s invitation. In the quiet of listening there are three areas that often emerge for focused spiritual growth: sin, love or deeper friendship with God. Choosing one for Lent will normally bring the others.
If you tackle sin this Lent, remember to be patient. Holiness is God’s work with you and within you. The enemies are known well to us, Satan and personal pride. Satan whispers that you will never win and human pride wants the vanquishing of sin finished by the end of Lent’s first week. The antidote to Satan is confidence in the immense love of God, and the antidote to pride is patient humility before the work of God within.
If you tackle love, be patient. We all know the outer boundary of our love capacity. We meet it each day with the irritation we feel with our spouse, friends, co-workers or family. God wants to bring us further. Love is grown with God’s help through repetitive acts of respect, kindness, forgiveness and self-control. The enemies remain. Satan insists the person is not worth the effort and the fallen human heart agrees. The antidote is faith in the power of God’s love, to love in us beyond our mere human capacity.
Lastly is friendship with God. Prayer is its primary locale. Most of us can speak to God; it is the listening that is hard. Perhaps choose an attribute of God you find difficult to accept and for Lent, dare to believe in it for 40 days. It may be his love for you, his forgiveness of the past or his providential care in suffering. Letting the real God be himself for 40 days may yield a wonderful and liberating Easter.
Questions for Reflection
1. What sin does God desire to root out of my life?
2. Where is my present boundary of love?
3. What do I find hard to believe about God?
Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Mary Parish, Greenville, and St. Edward Parish, Mackville.