The AJAN reflection for the first Sunday of Lent, 22 February, is written by Time Baluwa, coordinator of the Integral Youth Development program in Harare, Zimbabwe.
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for 40 days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.
After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfilment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
In our contemporary lives we are surrounded by a multitude of disorganised and organised ‘noises’ that distract us and absorb our attention and energy. The noises come from an endless array of sources – our relatives, our smartphones, our hectic schedules, our personal and collective encounters and so much more. They can be external, what we see and hear around us, and sometimes they are rattling within: what we think, feel and reflect in our minds and hearts. Some of our noises make us happy – think about time spent with friends or your busy job that you love and juggle with family life. And others pull us down – we all know what it means to be plagued by personal worries, to be disturbed by so much injustice and suffering.
Noises are part and parcel of our lives. But we do need to be careful about one thing: all too often, the orchestra of noises, within and without, threatens to drown the voice of God speaking to us. We forget to really listen to God, to truly discover Him in our lives. Instead we create an image of God who is just a recipient of our requests but who rarely talks to us. So we bombard Him with our requests and consider Him only in so far as He fits in the pattern created by our complex life noises. Perhaps we don’t even listen to ourselves.
In today’s reading, God invites us to move to a place where we can mute the noises around us and listen exclusively to Him. Jesus was driven into the wilderness to have such an encounter with His Father, our Father (Mark 1:12-15). We are called to do the same during this time of Lent: to remove ourselves from the centre of our daily encounters and chaos and just to be with God and listen to Him. Only when we find this space, will we start to learn what God wants to tell us, and discover the real meaning of our daily noises.
HIV and AIDS is one of the biggest noises of our times, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. It is an undeniable fact that we are all touched by the impacts of the pandemic, either as infected or affected. Can today’s Lenten readings teach us anything about this? After 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Good News. He drew strength, clarity and love from his encounter with His Father. Following Jesus into the desert, where we will surely find God waiting, let’s ask for and receive the clarity, strength and love to proclaim the Good News to a world living with HIV and AIDS. Some basics of this Good News are:
- Unconditional love, care and support for people living with HIV so that they may have life to the full (Jn 10:10);
- Zero tolerance for discrimination and stigmatisation;
- Vigorous action against injustices that perpetuate and are in turn fuelled by HIV and AIDS;
- Universal and equal access, constantly enhanced, to antiretroviral medication, to other essential care and to food;
- Shared integral prevention approaches to defeating the pandemic.
As we venture in our own individual and collective wildernesses, we need to remember that the journey is not without its challenges. Being present to God in this special and dedicated way can be hard work. Jesus had to endure the advances of Satan so we too can expect to face the temptations emanating from the noises around us: from our friends, perhaps, or our possessions, or our schedules. We need to discern very carefully to find those temptations, particular to us, which hinder us from effectively listening to God’s message for us. But the results will be worthwhile, both for us and for those we seek to love and serve in our daily lives.
To read this reflection in French, please go here.