Lent Begins

This season for Christians, as for other traditions that take time to repent, marks a turning point. From what to what? Jesus didn’t know or use the word “sin,” which wasn’t part of the Hebrew construct. But he clearly understood the context of anything less than the fullness of what God wants us to become.

So he says, “Turn from all that drags you down.” Are we haunted by worries about the future or shame about the past? Are we still angry about something that happened years ago? Lent means springtime: it presents us with the opportunity to slough off like a snakeskin all that deadens. Instead, we turn to the God who made us, who redeemed us and who lives in us.

Just as Jesus would say “the Prince of this world has no hold on me,” so we belong to God, not to all that threatens. If we over-identify with our emotions, achievements, children, work or ideas, we risk being in bondage to one sector of our lives, out of balance as a whole person. Instead, Jesus invites us to belong completely to him, with all we are. The only door into the future is trust. God who has been faithful before can be trusted again. Can we step towards that life source this Lent?

Some gospel accounts of Jesus’ temptations end with the phrase, “and angels waited on him.” After a dreadful ordeal, when Jesus is hungry and probably exhausted, the presence of the divine is somehow still with him. It is possible that angels attend all our lonely desert places. Where we sense the least comfort, there it abounds. Perhaps it’s a relationship, health or job issue, looming decision. And how have light wings touched us during ordinary days? Through health care workers, kind friends, relatives who don’t tire of our cranky moods or repeated stories?

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