Has Lent Transformed You Yet?
We are reaching the midway point of the grace-filled season of Lent. Prayer, various forms of self-denial and acts of charity are the hallmark of this holy season. In fact, these are virtues that help us to orient ourselves towards others.
The Gospel narrative for the first Sunday of Lent concerning the temptation of Christ (Matthew 4:1-11) made us realise that these were meant for Christ to orient his life and activities to his own benefit.
The temptations are presented dramatically, as if they occurred in a few minutes, far away in a wilderness before Christ began his ministry.
However, these temptations are what Christ faced and overcame during the three years of his public ministry.
The temptations of Christ are related to his mission and he overcame them all. By giving in to them he would have enhanced his reputation among the people as a social worker, wonder worker and political leader as they thought and expected—but that was not his mission.
Anyone with a mission for Christ would be tempted; victory will come only if temptation for self-orientation is kept at bay.
It is from learning and meditating on the temptations Christ faced and overcame, and the temptations that we face in our 21st century, that we can see how Lent can be a time for personal challenge and transformation.
Years down the line, people have become so accustomed to the Lenten season that some do not even bother about the most important things: personal transformation and change.
Too often, we want to race to the Easter Resurrection without fully embracing the Lenten process that leads to it.
Lent provides us with an opportunity to deepen our spirituality by engaging in regular discipline, from Ash Wednesday through to Easter Sunday.
The wilderness—the desert days of Lent—is the true path towards our spiritual transformation.
Fasting and other forms of penance are about personal challenges and transformation. Through letting go of our dependence on things we love most, we develop personal discipline; we look at making sacrifices for the good of others and we develop the capacity to face challenges with greater courage.
Prayer is also about transformation. In prayer, we focus on something greater than ourselves. We look at life through a different lens.
One day some of the disciples of Jesus were trying to drive out an evil spirit from a man. They had no success and they were in difficulty because Jesus was not there. When Jesus returned, he drove out the evil spirit.
Later, when they were alone, they asked him: “Why were we not able to drive out the evil spirit?” Jesus replied: “This is the kind that can be driven out only by prayer and fasting.”
I believe there is an evil spirit on the loose at the present time, who loves to see us respond in a destructive way to the challenges of life. We all have our own experiences of this negativity.
While we certainly need to engage in social and political action to strengthen the culture of life in our society, I believe that our hearts will be converted to the Gospel of Life only by prayer and fasting.
For that reason, make a personal commitment to some form of prayer and penance, in a way that perhaps some of us have not done for quite some time.
Do it as a specific expression of your desire to “Choose Life” and to respond generously and constructively to the challenges of life that can lead us to transformation.