March 13, 2011
This season of Lent has its origins in the early days of the Church. It was a time of preparation for baptism. In that first century anno domini, those adults that were to enter the sacred mysteries at the great Vigil of Easter were called to spend some days in intensified prayer and in fasting (bodily prayer). By the time of the first Ecumenical Council (Nicaea, 325 AD), this preparatory season had grown to forty days of introspection and prayer. In our day, holy Lent continues to have the same preparatory sense. The children and adults who are connected to the parish family of Saint Brigid are preparing for the Sacraments of Easter through their preparatory observance of Lent.
But in addition to this preparatory sense of the season, Lent has significance. It is to prepare all of us for the great memorial…the celebration of the Sacred Triduum, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. For the parish family of Saint Brigid, holy Lent is an intensified prayer for metanoia, conversion. The Greek word metanoia brings us the word “conversion”, a transformative change of heart. Metanoia…conversion…is a dynamic turning away from sin and a turning toward the Lord. Another way of understanding the call of holy Lent is simply this: a turning away from darkness and a turning toward the Light.
In today’s proclamation from the Gospel, we are given a true compass for our celebration of Lent. In the proclamation, Jesus of Nazareth, after he joined the people in accepting the baptism of repentance offered by John went into the desert and gave himself to his Abba, in prayer and fasting. The enemy of our human nature, Satan, came to him and began to tempt him. How could the evil one tempt the Son of God? The evil one tempted Jesus to put aside his human nature (and his mission), to put aside his solidarity with our broken human race, and simply be God’s Son, God’s Word: don’t be hungry…don’t be susceptible to suffering and death…don’t be simple and humble and dependent. Satan tempted Jesus by suggesting that he use his authority and power to be above us, to be divine. Jesus rejected the tempter by remaining one of us…human…by remaining dependent on God the Father for everything.
Jesus of Nazareth accepted his human nature, his dependence on the Providence of his Abba. Our work during holy Lent: through prayer and through fasting and through the works of service and mercy, we are to recognize our human nature as it is (broken) and to turn toward what our human nature is to become (redeemed). This redemption is the gift given. Lent allows us to prepare our hearts…that we may accept that invitation…to be happily, joyfully holy, and to serve our neighbor in love.