February 12, 2013
Dirty ashes smeared on our foreheads – what a bleak reminder about our frailty.
We were born and we will have an end. As we survey our life we know we are ultimately limited. Death will come along and take us away, but we must face the truth about who we are so that we can live our lives with perspective, in other words, live our true lives.
Genesis reminds us that if we acknowledge we are creatures of dust, we can also express our belief that the Eternal One has placed a life-giving breath in us. This breath orients us to God, and calls us to follow in God’s ways.
If we haven’t been on the right track, Lent is an opportunity to make necessary adjustments. The Gospel reminds us that during Lent we can look death straight on, or anything that threatens us and not be afraid. Jesus has entered the desert, met the devil and came out triumphant. He has preceded us into the place of temptation and can help us get through our own deserts, the places where we wandered from the path. We do not have to be afraid. We are not alone.
There is consolation for us this Lent, even as we cast a sober glance over our lives, because we have been given hope that Jesus has looked into our darkness, seen us there and has come to pull us out.
Lent is our time of critical self-evaluation, a time to think things over, to be more aware of our limitations, our mortality and our need. A time to remember that our lives can be transformed by grace. Through Christ, God breathes into us a life-giving Spirit. We are dust, yet we have our origins and destiny in God.
We have forty days ahead of us to make some choices. It is “focus time” –
40 days to choose more positive ways of looking and acting, with the Scriptures as our lens.
As we listen to the scriptures during this season, we can take them to heart and get our vision cleared. We will learn what Jesus taught us from the desert, “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
God wants to breathe new life into us through the life-giving Word. We need this preparation time to renew our baptismal vows and commitment to Christ.
This Lent, we are reminded that we can break away from sin by the enabling grace of God. The reform in Lent is both for the individual and the community. Together we are called to a more attentive listening to the Word. As we listen, we become more deeply unified, we hear our story and claim it as the One we want to believe in and live by. The Gospel shows us that Jesus had more power than sin. With him we can overcome what we have not been able to do on our own.
Father Thomas A. Kane, CSP, is the director of Paulist Reconciliation Ministries.