On Ash Wednesday, in our Gospel Acclamation, we hear the refrain from Psalm 95, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Immediately after the gospel, in the prayer for the blessing of ashes, the first words we hear are “O God, who are moved by acts of humility and respond with forgiveness to works of penance, lend your merciful ear to our prayers.” St. Paul tells us in Romans this week, just as sin and death came into the world through the actions of one man, Adam, grace and life has come into the world through the actions of another, Jesus Christ. What Christ has brought into the world, His Grace, is infinitely more powerful than the hideous power of sin.
We enter into Lent by first going into the desert with Jesus to contemplate the temptations in our lives and how we are to respond. Do we follow the example of Adam and Eve, not listening to the voice of God, turning our hearts away, letting our pride control us? Or do we follow the example of Jesus, who chooses always and everywhere to submit in obedience to God’s will, embracing humility and prayer as His shield against the temptations of Satan, while responding with mercy and compassion for those he meets? It is the argument I have with my car’s GPS. I ask it for directions and then I decide to go down a different road. The GPS quickly transitions into that annoying mode – you know it – recalculating, recalculating! The GPS continually tries to get me back on the right path. It’s a little bit of what Lent is about for us – recalculating to try and get back to travelling the right paths in our lives. Reorienting our life to Jesus Christ.
Each Lent we are afforded the unique opportunity to join Jesus in the desert. It is a time for renewal – a time to change behaviors – a time to correct course. It is a time to reflect on our sins – to really reflect upon those obstacles in our lives that keep us from fully committing to Christ. Through fasting and abstinence we cleanse ourselves. It changes our routine and brings us more focus. By spending time contemplating God, reflecting upon Jesus, and renewing the commitments we made in baptism; we prepare ourselves to make choices of the soul, rather than choices of convenience. We owe it to ourselves to do this. We need to confront the demons within us, the sins that get hidden below the surface. We need to see sin in its true aspect, and see who Christ is for us. He is our liberator, he is our salvation, our redeemer.
When we see sin in its right aspect, we become free to choose something different, to step away from sin and into the light of Christ. When we call upon Jesus Christ to help us, all kinds of good things begin to happen. Lent is about our relationship with God, the promises we made in Baptism, and how we bring those two things into one. It is about recalculating our course and moving forward in our conversion – moving forward toward God. We do that by understanding who we truly are; by facing the demons beneath the surface; by understanding who Christ is for us; and by recommitting to our baptismal promises!
As Vincentians, we go into the desert of poverty, serving as the human GPS each time we go on home visits or care for those who are suffering and vulnerable. We serve to help them recalculate, that they might find the path of hope. We are called to listen with a merciful ear, acting with a tenderness of heart as we seek God’s will, and respond with kindness and humility. We listen for His voice that our hearts might be moved through prayer away from sin, and we might be healed through our care for others. Do I enter into each encounter through prayer and humility, listening for His will that my heart might be moved to act with mercy and compassion? When I look at situations of suffering and the challenges of others, am I able to see the reflection of my poverties that I might seek God’s forgiveness and surrender to His will?
Lord Jesus, I pray this Lenten season that you will shield me from the temptation of pride and help me to grow in humility. Help me to hear your voice, following in the footsteps of Jesus, seeking your will in all situations. Allow me to be a vessel serving you in whatever way you call me to. Let me look at those whom you bring before me, and see in them what it is that you call me to. Help me to recognize Lord that as I serve them, they serve me. Help me to move in new directions that please you, follow your will and glorify your name. We pray all of this in your name. Amen