Russell Pollitt SJ The sexual abuse crisis that rocked the Catholic Church worldwide has been one of the most disillusioning things I have had to face as a priest. It...
The PSALM [24 or 25] for this first Lenten Sunday present us with a solid, undramatic, and rational approach to the next six weeks. The last thing we need is to enter Lent with extravagant ideas and unrealistic resolutions. In reality most of us are not enormous public sinners in need of flagellation, and hair shirts. However, all of us stand in need of fine tuning. This is what we must accept as our focus – together with a firmer and more resolute belief in the fact that God-in-Christ is our saviour.
The psalm’s first stanza says it all:
Lord, make me know your ways.
Lord, teach me your paths.
Make me walk in your truth, and teach me:
for you are God my Saviour.
Then, the REFRAIN to our psalm reminds us of something we all need clear reminders of:
Your ways, Lord, are faithfulness and love
for those who keep your covenant.
Lent must be for us a time in which we make ourselves available to be taught and reminded of our loving God’s faithfulness and love. This is the basic truth in which we have to walk (live!).
It is only in walking our talk that we experience the Lord as saviour … very often saving us from ourselves when we allow the ordinary, daily pressures of life and living (our walking) to create blind spots which prevent us from recognising HIS WAYS which indicate his paths, and save us from the countless detours we are all inclined to take. There are no short cuts in discipleship. Lent provides us all with an opportunity to return, in a substantial manner, to the proverbial straight and narrow ( a little crookedness somehow always manages to creep into our livings).
The Lord’s faithfulness and love have been promised to us in the COVENANT! The full meaning of this Covenant developed slowly. However, it was with Noah and his descendants that it began. It was first mentioned in GENESIS 6: 18, and this promise becomes a reality in the circumstances outlined by our OLD TESTAMENT READING [GENESIS 9: 8 – 15]. In the Covenant our Christian God promised to be on our side, to stand with us, and be there for us at all times but especially in circumstances of need.
It is the Lenten season which reminds us of this fact, and calls us to re-evaluate, strengthen and deepen our appreciation that WE ARE A COVENANT PEOPLE – bound to our God by his solemn promise. “Your ways, Lord, are faithfulness and love for those who keep your covenant.”
However, the essential truth of this covenant is to be found in its relational aspect. The Lord God bound himself to us within the whole ambit of a PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP. Take a careful look, at the manner in which this is outlined in the Old Testament extract where we read how the Lord spoke to Noah. It was, as we ended last week’s reflection, PERSON TO PERSON and HEART TO HEART. The Old Testament is filled with illustrations of this fact ….(for example)“I have carried you on eagles wings … we are the apple of his eye …. I shall be your God, and you will be my people … I have called you by name …. be not afraid … I have known you from the womb …. called you by name.”HOW MUCH MORE DO WE WANT OR NEED TO HEAR?
This Sunday’s GOSPEL ACCOUNT [MARK 1: 12 – 15] simply records the fact that Jesus “was tempted by Satan.” There are no details but we are told that he was looked after! It is well worth our while to accept that what really looked after him was the firmness of the personal relationship Jesus enjoyed with the Father.
The Lord emerged from that period of forty days strong and secure enough in THE RELATIONSHIP to immediately commence his public ministry. How is this announced other than “believe the Good News”? In its most basic and simplest form, this Good News is the fact that we are bound through COVENANT in a personal relationship with the Father.
What better Lenten programme is there than for each one of us to recapture this fundamental? Then, the NEW TESTAMENT READING [1 PETER 3: 18 – 22] speaks about “when God was still waiting patiently.”
Let us, THIS Lent, not test the patience of God!