Notice During the Covid-19 Outbreak
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February 20, 2021
WILDERNESS – A PLACE OF OPPORTUNITY
A Reflection from the Christian Traditions
by Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
by Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
In this time of pandemic, it is hard to believe we would observe a time called “Lent.” Have we not had enough penance for a lifetime? I am tempted to think we should simply count down the days to Easter leaving the fasting and other Lenten observances for another time. Such thoughts, or temptations, give me pause as I reconsider what Lent might mean.
The word “Lent” points to the arrival of Spring and the freshness of the Natural World with all its beauty and splendor. In many parts of the World, the Spring rains bring flowers as a new growing season begins. Like Advent, there is a heightened sense of expectation as Lent humbly yet dramatically points to Easter. The emphasis on fasting and penance is meant to wet our appetite for the life-giving qualities of the World around us. It is a time to rediscover the beauty of what it means to be alive and the splendor of the World around us. The ashes by which we are blessed remind us of how fragile the created World is. Lent invites us to be responsible citizens of the Earth realizing the presence of Jesus in everyone and everything. We are invited to turn moments of temptation into opportunities for self-giving love.
The reading for the First Sunday of Lent takes us back to the beginning of Mark’s Gospel and the Temptation scene. Mark gives the shortest account of the Temptations tempting us to quickly pass over the verses to more substantial parts of the Gospel. Mark simply states “Jesus was tempted by Satan” after the Spirit delivered the “Beloved” Jesus into the wilderness. “Wilderness” is a powerful word and image for chaos and upheaval. We might be shocked to realize the role of the Spirit in the temptation scene. Should not the Spirit protect from evil?
The wilderness becomes a place of opportunity in the midst of temptation and chaos. The Spirit is not a sedative but moves within us so we can see what is in our hearts and contend with the real World as it is. How sad it is to attempt to sedate the Spirit. Jesus struggled with the Satan for forty days and nights recalling the biblical journey of the people of Israel from slavery to a land of promise. We live in a time of uncertainty afraid we might be lost as we seek to find our land of promise. The future can seem uncertain if not frightening.
Mark offers no certainty or assurance at this point in the Gospel Narrative. The author simply states Jesus was tempted. Much to our surprise Angels and Wild Beasts comfort and serve him after his ordeal (Mark 1: 13). The visible and the invisible come to his rescue. Once again, the gifts of Nature and the mysteries of the Universe delightfully conspire to bring comfort and joy in the midst of chaos and uncertainty. So, thank your Angels and hug your animal companion of choice for the blessings they offer each and every day.
Thank you, Holy Community, for being an Angel. Bless the creatures great and small. Bless one another with compassion and understanding even in the chaos of the Wilderness and the ambiguity of the moment. Be filled with Spirit so your courage may be strong and your generosity of heart unbounded.