Lent, revolution of our relations with God and others
Since Ash Wednesday, we have entered a new Lent. A period of preparation for the celebration of the Easter mystery: passion, death and resurrection of Christ. The Christian at baptism undertakes to follow the risen Christ and with him to become more attached to God and faithfully carry out his mission of loving and doing good to the world. This preparation is three-dimensional: I-God, Self-Myself and I-others. It goes through prayer, almsgiving and fasting or deprivation. Every Lent everyone thinks of the resolutions he will take to overcome the temptations that turn us away from God, that prevent us from growing in trust in him and therefore of others. At Easter, we will look at the balance sheet: if we have held, we will talk about a good Lent and we will have the impression of having come closer to God. But if we haven’t managed to hold everything together, we’ll feel like we’ve done bad Lent and distanced ourselves from God.
1. The meaning of true Lent.
True Lent goes beyond simply observing the resolutions made. To understand this, we must carefully read the first reading (dt,26:4_1à) which proposes to us a “revolutionary” Lent. that is, a real revolution in our relationship with God. So it is no longer a question of offering sacrifices to receive from him what we ask. Which would be like barter! There is, therefore, a reversal to operate: Instead of giving to God to receive from Him, we are invited to offer Him what we have received from Him. Israel, for example, before entering the Promised Land, will have to offer the first sheaves to God. These are the fruits of the earth that the Lord has given him. They are the fruit of a free man’s work and no longer that of a slave.
Lent is not first and foremost a time of effort but a time of liberation where the main work is done by the Lord himself in us. God takes the initiative Himself. As before He continues to see the misery of His people. God wants to free us from the bondage of money (material goods), comfort and the will to succeed at all costs. He also sees those who are bullied, the victims of unemployment, violence, exclusion, division, all those who are thrown into the street, etc..
Thus to live a good Lent is not first of all to make efforts to please God. Rather, it is to open our hearts to Him; it is to open our door to Him to welcome the love that is in Him. This love that is just waiting to cross our lives must radiate in us and around us. To live a good Lent is to offer God the fruit of his love and let him alone guide us.
But if we look closely, we see that we have many other masters and Lords who make us slaves, and even blind us. They divert us from our desire since our baptism: to do good, to be men and women who do only good. These include selfishness, (=idolatry of ourselves) our cowardice, our will to power, indifference, the race for power, carelessness etc. Christ wants to free us from these master deceivers, so that we may be able to offer him fruits worthy of liberated men and women. The fruits overflowing with a compassionate heart, a heart invades with an inclusive love, a heart that fights injustices and oppression, a heart that satisfies the afflicted, etc. It is to these fruits that, from Ash Wednesday, we were invited: “tear your hearts and not your clothes” (joel,2,12…). A call to live Lent that goes beyond the ostentatious, appearances for the vain glory of the men around us.
2. Knowledge of God’s word, a weapon against the tempter.
Lent is also a time when we mature our relationship with God, our Master and Creator. This growth goes through listening to one’s word and through growth in the knowledge of this word. The knowledge of this word equips us more to defend ourselves also from the evil one, the flatterer who roams around us and makes us dangle the goods while he wants to destroy us, colonize us. It goes through our weaknesses, our desires and basic needs. He can even use our human pride to want honor and glory or power.
Jesus, our brother passed through this, but it is the knowledge of the word of God allowed him to defend himself and overcome the flatterer. “If you are sons of God then do this we will see… When the tempter approaches us, he uses the same technique by saying, for example: “If you are a free man (democratic, modern) if you are a person who has the initiative of his own life, do what pleases you; thus, you will be able to manifest your freedom and dignity. You are young, your religion there snatches your freedom: it prevents you from living, from enjoying life; it prevents you from this and that… If one is not informed, attentive one falls into such flattery, or traps and commits nonsense. “It is also written that man does not live only from bread; … thou shalt worship the one God…; it is written you will not put your God to the test…” These were Christ’s answers to the tempter. Answers that show his knowledge of god’s word.
Lent also invites us to learn more from the word of God. Let us fast from our ignorance and learn what is moving us forward, what makes our faith and our humanity grow. Let us fast with our pride, jealousies, favoritism, lack of confidence, etc.
Some questions to feed our refurbishment:
· How can we live this Lent differently and make it different from all the Lents already experienced?
· What prevents me from being authentic in my relationship with God, with myself, and with others around me?
· Who have I become a slave to today?
All temptations are intended to harm the relationship between man and God. This is the goal that the tempter has set himself. He tells himself that he will be able to do what he wants with the person concerned because he will have become his slave..
It is you, Lord, who give us the desire and strength to follow and love you. Teach us to fast from our egoisms, our indifferences, our will to power and make us thirsty for your humility, your compassion and your desire to raise the human being.
Be with us on the path that we ourselves at Easter and help us to walk as a people of brothers, happy to witness that God loves us, saves us and is Love. Amen.