First Sunday of Lent (B)

The grave purple colors, the ashes and sticks, the lack of flowers, cross everywhere; all remind us that this week we begin Lent. “Here we go, again,” we might think.  “No, not already,” we might protest.  Maybe we’ll look into our religious storeroom and cart out some of practices we’ve stored since last spring. Let’s see, “Oh yeah, I gave up.........last year.  That worked.  Hmm, I also gave up alligator nuggets. Not a whole lot of desire for those anyway.  Hmm, I made extra time for some spiritual reading that was good.  I made a contribution to Catholic Relief Services. That worked.” And so, we pull out of the closet well-worn items to enter the season properly. I guess that is all good, even if it is boring.  Maybe, though, we can find a way to make this Lent special[1].

The Gospel for today is very simple. Instead of elaborating on the temptations of the Lord, Mark just briefly says that Jesus went into the desert for forty days, fought off temptation, was administered to by angels and then returned and went to battle.  He proclaimed the Kingdom of God.

Instead of complicating our lives this Lent, may I suggest that we picture a simple image and let that image motivate our lives. I have an image that we could keep before us throughout Lent. The image is Jesus crying.
 
We find several instances of Jesus crying in the Gospels.  Jesus looked at the city of Jerusalem and wept, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem how often I would have gathered you as a mother hen gathers her chicks, but you would not have me. He wept over his friend Lazarus, over death and the pain that death brought to Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, their neighbors and the entire village of Bethany. When the night before he died, Judas betrayed him, you could sense the pain in the Lord’s voice and the tear in his eye when he said, Judas, do you betray me with a kiss, a kiss of friendship. Before this Jesus wept in that Garden.  He could feel the gravity of our sins and the personal price he would have to pay for them.

The image of the weeping Jesus could be ours for this Lent.  How must the Lord feel, knowing that his people can find no solutions to world events other than the organized killing called war? Jesus weeps. How must he feel knowing that the money spent on eye makeup or video games in one year in the United States could end the African famine so easily ignored in our country? Jesus cries. How must the Lord feel knowing that we have used the advancement of technology to devise new ways of killing from the womb to the battlefield? Jesus weeps. How must the Lord feel knowing that we have used devotion to Him as an excuse to attack people He also loves, like the gay trying to live a chaste life or the woman suffering from post abortion trauma. Jesus weeps. How must the Lord feel knowing that so often we have all just given up, pushed our Christian responsibilities to the side, attempted to separate morality from our faith and claimed that any twinge of conscience is merely Catholic guilt not an inner call to conversion.  Jesus weeps.

What we do during Lent, what we surrender, is not for its own sake, nor is it simply for our own self-improvement.  What we do, the good deeds, the prayers, the sacrifices, all have as their goal a deep and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Our goal is to know him with a burning desire and to love him with a burning passion.

The image of Jesus weeping reminds us that He is someone who cares about each one of us. He suffers when we hurt ourselves by giving in to sin. He allows His love for us to reduce him to tears whenever we betray that love.

And God placed the rainbow in the sky. It was a sign. It was a covenant. It was a sign that God would never give up on His people. It was a covenant, that if his sons and daughters would turn from sin and choose Him, their lives would be full of beauty, love and goodness.

He will not give up on us. He cries when He sees us jump into immorality. He cries when we give up on ourselves. He cries out of love.

Perhaps if we contemplate the weeping Jesus this Lent, we will turn from all that is destroying us.  We will turn from all that gives him pain.  Perhaps we will really change our lives. Perhaps we will give up those elements of our lifestyle that are slowly killing us.  If we contemplate the weeping Jesus, we can change this Lent. And this won’t be because we fear a spanking. It will be because we can hear Jesus crying



[1] First Sunday of Lent B, February 22, 2015. Readings: Genesis 9:8-15; Psalm 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9; 1 Peter 3:18-22, Mark 1:12-15.

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris