Today we start our Lenten season. I compare this season with the desert experience. This desert experience is normally associated with the desert experience of the people of Israel and their march towards the Promised Land (forty years and ours forty days) and in the New Testament the desert experience of Jesus immediately after His baptism.
In these community and personal experiences, we associate our own desert experience, both with the Old Testament and the New Testament, thus creating a new experience both external and internal, which none have ever lived, neither in the past nor present, where I am called not to fall back for a simple imitation, rather to recreate a new experience both for the self and for others. Thus we are individually and with other in a communitarian participative feeling, enter in this wonderful season, with joy, and hope. A new transformed person is to born in us, for us and for the society.
Though there is no newness in this demarche, the fruit will be certainly new to us in a personal way, profiting all those who are associated with us directly and indirectly. Any faith orientation activity, if not connected with the community, somewhere we will be isolated. Even in the contemplative life, these monks who isolate themselves from the world and from others in the meditation and contemplation, are fully in prayer united with the people of God, with whom they consecrate their life to God. Their consecration is neither for God, because God is not moved by our act, nor for themselves, because they then will become very much ego centric, rather for the people of God, where they themselves are part. Thus let us be aware that our Lenten observations may not be an isolated activity, though apparently it may seem to be, it is fully related to the whole community.
In this season, it is important that we remember few essential ingredients which may help us to live this moment in a useful and profitable manner. First of all, the desert experience was inspired by God and accepted by the people. Even in Jesus, the gospel says that he was led by the Holy Spirit. If we are not animated by the Holy Spirit, all our spiritual activities won’t produce the desired fruit. Just like Peter who went to fishing without Jesus and worked throughout the night without any catch, we too will end up without anything.
People of Israel where marching from slavery to a liberated life. Jesus was entering from the pure divinity towards the humanity allowing Himself to be tempted by the devil, just like us. It is important that we realise our present status, and walk towards the Promised Land. We should identify this Promised Land. Without identifying this and fixing this goal, we may continue to walk, and never be able to measure the depth of our engagement.
Jesus was guided by the Holy Spirit and the people were guided by Moses and Aron. Who will be our guide in these days? Let us take few biblical personages and see how they built their relationship with God after their fall. Let us recall David and his sin, Prodigal son and merciful father, adulterous women and unjudging Christ, Peter who denied Christ, Saul who became Paul, etc. These biblical personalities will help us to understand the divine mercy and the deep love of God for us.
The church proposes three means to live this moment in a meaningful way: Prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Let us contemplate on these means and apply them in a practical and simple way without any complications.
The final proposal will be a radical emptying. The people of Israel were ready to leave behind their identity of ‘slavery ‘and decided to follow God through Moses and Aron, towards an unknown land, to be ‘a liberated people’. They did fail, but God again and again made convent with them to re-establish their own dignity as the chosen people of God. Jesus’ incarnation was put in test in the desert and there were many such moments where Jesus was forced to resist to the temptation, particularly of human glory after every miracle. Nothing was easy. However with God everything moved as smooth as God willed.
We too be ready for these temptations during this period of Lend. It is important that we learn to empty ourselves, to be filled by God’ grace. If we fail, there is always a solution in the Divine Mercy, however, let us not fail to stand up and look at Christ. Just like David who was forgiven, Saul who became Paul, God will certainly transform us. I wish you all a meaningful celebration. God bless you.