St. Peter's Square
Sunday, 26 February 2012
"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this First Sunday of Lent we meet Jesus who, after receiving Baptism from John the Baptist in the River Jordan (cf. Mk 1:9), is subjected to temptation in the wilderness (cf. Mk 1:12-13)...The wilderness referred to has various meanings. It can indicate the state of abandonment and loneliness, the “place” of human weakness, devoid of support and safety, where temptation grows stronger.
However, it can also indicate a place of refuge and shelter — as it was for the People of Israel who had escaped from slavery in Egypt — where it is possible to experience God’s presence in a special way. Jesus “was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan” (Mk 1:13). St Leo the Great comments that “The Lord wanted to suffer the attack of the tempter in order to defend us with his help and to instruct us with his example (Tractatus ...).
What can this episode teach us? As we read in the book The Imitation of Christ, “There is no man wholly free from temptations so long as he lives... but by endurance and true humility we are made stronger than all our enemies” (Liber I, C. XIII, Vatican City 1982, 37), endurance and the humility of following the Lord every day, learning not to build our lives outside him or as though he did not exist, but in him and with him, for he is the source of true life.
The temptation to remove God, to arrange things within us and in the world by ourselves, relying on our own abilities, has always been present in human history.
Jesus proclaims that “the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk 1:15), he announces that in him something new happens: God turns to the human being in an unexpected way, with a unique, tangible closeness, full of love; God is incarnate and enters the human world to take sin upon himself, to conquer evil and usher men and women into the world of God.
However, this proclamation is accompanied by the request to measure up to such a great gift. In fact Jesus adds: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1:15). It is an invitation to have faith in God and to convert all our actions and thoughts to goodness, every day. The season of Lent is a favourable moment for renewing and reinforcing our relationship with God, through daily prayer, acts of penance and works of brotherly charity.
Let us fervently beg Mary Most Holy to accompany us on our Lenten journey with her protection and to help us to impress the words of Jesus Christ in our hearts and in our lives so as to convert to him." full text here: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/angelus/2012/documents/hf_ben-xvi_ang_20120226_en.html
Let's look at that part again, "endurance and the humility of following the Lord every day, learning not to build our lives outside him or as though he did not exist, but in him and with him, for he is the source of true life" - that is what Christ teaches us in the desert! How providential is this for that first Sunday of Lent, and even now a week later as you read this! We are in the thick of the Lenten marathon now, we've run quite a few laps and hopefully are in that steady stride where we feel like we've got this. We've passed the initial thrill and energetic starting point of Ash Wednesday, and we're even the first week and a half now. This is where we need endurance. The endurance to resist the temptation to sit and rest, to ease up on our efforts, to slack off. Or, if we missed the gunshot and never started running, it could seem like a great time to throw in the towel and say, "I'll never catch up now, so why try?" Because it's never to late to start - and never too soon to commit to going further! So the Holy Father tell us that what we need now is endurance! But humble endurance. Not "I can do this, I'm tough enough, bring it on!," but, "Lord, with your daily portion of grace, I can make it. Give me strength!" A commitment of our own strength must go hand in hand with a commitment to trust in the Lord's strength - or we'll collapse long before the finish line and be easy prey to whatever temptation pulls us off course along the way. That daily asking for grace, for our daily bread, is really and truly a source of life, of energy, of hope. Without this day to day perspective and trust in grace, these 40 days could seem like 40 years! So keep it up guys, keep running. Keep turning to God every day and asking Him for the necessary grace, and keep encouraging each other to do the same! Look out for your brothers and sisters, and cheer them on. No one can do it alone - we aren't meant to! May we grow each blessed day to be more "in him and with him" by growing in humility and honesty, letting every dusty corner of our inner lives be converted slowly, piece by piece, so that each day we are a few more laps closer to the finish line, that joyful celebration, our own resurrection from the dead in Christ, Our Lord.
Rachel Elisa Gardner Perez