First Sunday of Lent

At the beginning of Lent there is the unique opportunity to enter a short season where we might be able to respond in a new way to the world. Many psychologists suggest 6 weeks is the ideal length of time to break a habit and pick up a new one. It is as if God invented Lent specifically to give ourselves the perfect chance of renewal and transformation.
Jesus spends forty days and nights in the desert fasting and praying. At the end of his experience he would have been hungry, would have sought companionship, would have been wanting a shower and a haircut! After forty days alone, he was vulnerable, ripe for temptation. so the devil was smart; he knew how to hit Jesus where he was most vulnerable; he tried to allure him with tantalizing temptations.
Temptations come when we are most vulnerable. It is an enticement to put our own desires and needs first, to give into our impulses without considering too seriously the consequences. Resisting temptation is resisting self-centeredness! Like Jesus, we must choose to surrender ourselves to God who alone should be the center of our lives.
The dust that shapes the journey, the cross that guides it, the color that surrounds it, the light that fades through it, the word that foretells it, The wilderness that invites it. This is Lent, and into it’s wilderness  God calls us.

Adapted from Renew International: Prayer Time Cycle A

God Alone

Christians tell the same story over and over even though we know how it ends. We dread the execution even as we anticipate the resurrection. The wisdom of our tradition asserts that our path is not a line but a circle—or a spiral.

As we turn from Epi­ph­any to Lent we leave the joy and wonder of the incarnation, moving from revelation and recognition to the hard work of repentance.

Forgetting that we were created for joy, many of us wrongly equate repentance with renouncing pleasure. We act as if our greatest sins were watching too much TV or eating too many chocolates. By “giving them up for Lent,” we continue to participate in the culture of consumption and individualism with a program of self-improvement.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Hes­chel wrote, “Repentance is an ab­solute, spiritual decision made in truthfulness. Its motivations are remorse for the past and responsibility for the future.” Could this be so for us?

On the surface, it might not look so different. We might still put down the chocolate bar and turn off the television, but we might also talk about our cultural addiction to spectacle, or forced child labor in the chocolate industry. Lent might look different if together we supported and created alternative media. And, rather than trading our sodas for bottled water, we stood with indigenous women defending their sacred waters.

The purpose of our fasting during Lent is to lead us, like Jesus, to hunger only for God and, like Jesus to choose to serve God alone.


First a story:  Missionaries were traveling in Africa accompanied by natives who acted not only as guides, but also as the ones who carried the luggage, supplies and other materials.  The missionaries were anxious to get to their destination which was only accessible on foot, and proposed an ambitious schedule to which the group kept for three days.  On the fourth day, the guides would not pick up the camp and move.  When the missionaries inquired why, the one who acted as translator said:  “We have moved too fast.  We have to wait for our souls to catch up.”

I know that feeling.  Most of us live a hectic pace, even nuns who have dedicated their lives to prayer and service of God’s people.  We knew how to multi-task even before we ever heard the word.   We acquire modern communication devices – things like cell phones, blackberries, netbooks, and smartphones – in the hope that they will help us be more efficient and get more done.  But, it never seems like we can get everything done that we need to do.

That brings me to Lent.  Each year the church invites us to enter into this holy season.  Though there are numerous ways to describe the purpose of Lent, one reason is to let our souls catch up to our bodies.

One of the themes of Lent is conversion.  This conversion involves a turning away from sin –  metanoia as well as a turning toward God – epistrophe.  In particular, we Christians want to dispose our lives to be more like that of Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God.

It was only two months ago that the whole church celebrated the mystery of this incarnation, God in Jesus becoming one like us in all things but sin.  Jesus not only reveals God to us, but shows us the way to be holy, to imitate him.

This conversion happens I think only when we slow down enough to let our souls catch up with our bodies.  I would like to highlight five characteristics of human life that give us an insight into how to let ourselves enter into conversion.

First, we are finite, bodily creatures.  This body provides the vehicle that is the means for our souls to get around.  Though we often fail to take care of our bodies well – we might eat too much, drink too much, fail to get enough sleep, or engage in risky behaviors – our bodies have a remarkable resilience for a rather long time.  The dietary practices of Lent – also know as fasting and abstinence – are one way to remind us that we need to be attentive to our bodies and to be moderate in our activities.

Second, we are relational creatures.  It is stating the obvious to say that we are born in relation to others.  But it seems to me we take for granted the profound significance of this insight.  Our faces are oriented to the other.  Our vision is always outward, not inward.  We only see our own faces in a mirror.  Because we are relational creatures we are made in the image of God who is by nature triune.

Third, we are intelligent creatures.  This intelligence is not only the great gift of being able to reason.  It also includes an ability to be self-reflective.  We are creatures who know that we know; we are self-conscious knowers.  We can abstract from the limitations of our finite lives to remember the past, reflect on our actions and intend to move in a good way toward the future.

Fourth, we are creatures capable of self-transcendence.  This does not mean that we can overcome our bodilyness.  However, we can imagine beyond the finite limits of our time and space.  We can pose questions that go beyond what we currently know toward the infinite.  It ultimately raises the question of whether or not there is an Infinite One at the end of our questioning.

Fifth, we are hopeful creatures.  Something inside us prods us to consider that, as good as life is, there is something more.  The promise of this “more” is the core of our hope.

Christians desire to dispose their own lives to that of Jesus, to journey with him to and through the Paschal Mystery.  The season of Lent offers us the opportunity to attend to this discipleship with all members of the Christian community. If we let our bodies slow down enough, we might just let our souls catch up.