What a splendid start is offered to us as we commence our Lenten endeavours. At the outset, I suggest we take thoughts from each of this Sunday’s GOSPEL [MARK 1: 12 – 15] and the OLD TESTAMENT EXTRACT [GENESIS 9: 8 – 15]. Firstly, in the Gospel the word wilderness appears twice in only a few verses, and the first refers to the fact that “the SPIRIT DROVE Jesus into the wilderness.” He was “in the wilderness, for forty days.”
Jesus began his ministry, under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, with a time of preparation as close to the created world as possible – he was even “with the wild beasts.” There were no human intrusions, no person to disturb the ordinary God-created order of things – “and the angels ministered to him.”
We should begin our own efforts under the influence of, and seek direction from, the same Spirit. There is a need for us to discern whether what we are doing in Lent is ‘of the Spirit’ – in other words that it will be creative. The Holy Spirit influences us to DO things ….. and, believe me, Satan will tempt us to stop ‘doing’. Many of you will know that I am not a special enthusiast of NOT DOING particular things during Lent. However, I am an avid supporter of ‘doing’. Lent is a time when we are challenged to ‘do’ – in order to show ourselves that it is possible to permanently ‘convert’ ourselves into more effective Christians, Catholics and disciples. What we do in Lent could easily become a permanent aspect of our living. Forget about putting on sackcloth and ashes. Rather ‘put on’ something which will always be a regular and frequent part of our wardrobe!
What about spending a little time in the wilderness each day of Lent …. say five minutes of silence merely sitting silently ‘with the Lord’? After forty days (give and take a few) this could become a life-enriching habit.
Now, let us make a note of how often our Genesis reading mentions words and phrases like earth, every living creature, all flesh, and every beast. Do not forget the wild beasts mentioned in the Gospel reading. God’s covenant is made with all of this – not only with us human beings: “it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” Perhaps during this Lent we could recapture the truth that we are parts of the universe, and are far from being isolated from our environment. This is the scriptural fact – not a fantasy. Our world is a real part of the Lord’s goodness (see OUR PSALM – 25 or 24). SO, HOW ABOUT A CONCERTED EFFORT TO MAKE THIS LENT A GREEN ONE? Take out forty days’ membership in the Green Party! If you think this is too easy as a Lenten endeavour, then I suggest you actually try it!
Is it possible for us to honestly “appeal to God for a clear conscience” (NEW TESTAMENT READING – 1 PETER 3: 18 – 22) if we fail to take our responsibilities as stewards of creation seriously? If we read carefully the creative narratives in the first few chapters of Genesis it should be obvious that our God has placed us in the role of caring, developing and protecting the world in which we live. Is this the first commandment with which the Lord challenged us?
Jesus was alone, with the wild beasts, in the wilderness – and he was ‘at home’ there, one with his Father and creation. A long time ago I remember reading that “I am a child of the Universe.”
AM I? ARE YOU?