We are asked to observe a Holy Lent. A Lent where we take the time for self-examination, penitence, prayer and almsgiving. But what does all that mean, and where do we start? As we set our mind to our own lists, plans and good intentions for Lent, we more often than not get overwhelmed. For me, there are the books I want to read, projects and initiatives to undertake and certain foods to give up. I do however refuse to fast from chocolate, cause there are limits . .
Regardless of our lists, or how noble our intentions may be, I am struck with today’s gospel. We read the well known, classic Lenten Gospel, of Jesus being tempted in the Wilderness. We read about how the Devil tries to attempt Jesus with food, power and protection. At each point, Jesus defines the Devil and points back to God. But how does he do that? I don’t know about you, but when I was a lot younger, the idea of being ruler over all the Kingdoms of the world seemed really appealing. Now a days, all I can think of is an Inbox and answering machine full of complaints and problems . . . Somehow the novelty of this particular temptation has worn thin.
Perhaps our clue or even our answer lies right in the opening lines of today’s gospel. We read how Jesus is “fulled with the Holy Spirit.” Jesus is “fulled with the Holy Spirit.” Let’s think about this for a moment. When we are mentally and physically prepared for something, we are much more successful in completing the project. When we are not as prepared as we should be, the task at hand is much more difficult and often does not go as planned or as well. Along with adequate preparation, we know, all too well, that if we really want something, or if we really believe in something, we are much more likely to commit the time and effort required. It’s about the choices we make.
So perhaps being full of the Holy Spirit is about the kind of preparation we need and the choices we make. To deepen our faith and Spiritual life, we need the Holy Spirit. To prepare and attend to the responsibilities of our work and family life, we need the Holy Spirit. To drive down the road, from point A to point B, we absolutely need the Holy Spirit. So it should come as no surprise to us, that it is only because Jesus is fulled with the Holy Spirit that he is able to resist the temptations that the Devil bring before him.
Our success with work, family and everything else in our lives is possible when we are in the right frame of mind and when we intentionally decide to commit and set our mind to something we inevitably make way for the Holy Spirit to do her best work
Now, being fulled with the Holy Spirit is not about our knee jerk reaction to something or someone. This is not about doing what is convenient or following what has always been done before. We must remember, that Jesus was tempted in the Wilderness. The Wilderness requires work and energy. The Wilderness are those places, more often than not, where we are in transition and the unfamiliar. When we talk about Wilderness in Scripture it is not only about places with little to know civilization, desert and harsh environments. The Wilderness can be all of those elements, but also when we find our selves in the “in-between” times. The times when we are leaving one job, and haven’t quite started or found the new job. Leaving home for the first time, the birth of a new child or grandchild are all Wilderness times. All of these transitions, both good and bad, require our choice, time, dedication, energy and work.
Being filled with the Holy Spirit, therefore, is about our considered intentional action. Again, this is not the quest for perfection, but rather immersing our selves in the present and with what lies before us through prayer, knowing that the end goal is not perfection, but rather making a faithful response where Grace can work in us to do better and become better.
At the heart of what it means to observe a ‘Holy Lent’ is being mindful that our preparation, sacrifice and almsgiving is what draws us deeper into relationship with God. So today we begin our journey, we make a faithful response towards the cross. This is a journey where we cannot sit idly by, but one that will provoke us, compel us and challenge us into becoming more fully alive as human beings.
The journey to the cross is not only about lament, sackcloth and penance. This is a journey that can be filled with joy and praise that we, no matter how long it takes, will ultimately find ourselves standing at the foot of the cross where we will meet Jesus and are invited to echo the Centurion’s cry that, “surely this is the son of God.”