We’ve seen it in the Movies—The commander yells “Charge!” and the battle begins.
Ash Wednesday was a kind of warmup—reconnoitering, scoping out the extent of the challenge. With today’s Gospel and feast of 1st Sunday of Lent, we begin the battle proper, with Jesus at the head of the charge. “He was put to the test by Satan. He was with the wild beasts, and angels waited on him.”
The battle is against evil—make no mistake about that. And to make it more difficult, it’s the evil with- in us. That’s hard for me to say, because I respect and like each of you so much. Yet I feel that because we’re still here, because we haven’t been taken into heaven yet, we must not be perfect. There are ways that the tricks and lies of the ancient serpent still resound in us, and come out in our actions
or our deficiencies.
Actually I regress with that, to last year. The 3-year cycle of readings began Lent last year with the garden and the fall. This year, for the 1st Sunday and the theme of evil and redemption, we’re treated to a beautiful couplet—first, the Great Flood, as God chose to destroy his creation and start over; the rainbow is a sign of God’s new covenant with humanity. And in the epistle, how Baptism is now the water that saves us as the ark did, only so immeasurably more.
This leads to the Evenings of Reflection I’m giving Feb. 24 and March 3, Dying and Rising With Christ. It’s the whole aim of Lent, then, to make Jesus’ victory over evil, sin, and death, our own.
I’m going to repeat these sections from my column last week, because I got ahead of myself a bit into Lent already. Also our bulletin was printed a bit scrambled last weekend, so all may not have seen it.
The word “Lent” is an old English word for Springtime. The date for Easter, and the start of Lent, changes every year, for a particular reason. The formula is: Easter is the 1st Sunday, after the 1st full moon, after March 21st. The first full moon after the Spring Equinox, March 21, is March 28 this year . So Easter 2021 is April 4.
Why this formula? Because the full moon along with the Equinox, when the earth turns more fully to the sun, brings the earth to life more fully. It’s the time when the sun, the winds, even the moon, work together to warm the earth and bring out life. Things bloom, the ground warms, trees come to life. This way Lent is timed every year for that maximum experience of nature coming to life. That’s our goal: to be coming awake and alive now, so we’re more fully in the light of Christ at Easter.
Remember that a classic Lent has 3 elements: Sacrifice (What are you giving up); Prayer (the simpler, the better; instead of continually talking to God, can you quietly listen for a while?) and Almsgiving, charity to the poor. It’s incomplete to make it just a test of our will power; the other two elements bring us closer to God, and to other people. See if you can make a sacrifice of something that will bring you closer to God and others. As I mentioned in my homily last Sunday, a monk once told us “If your sin and your fault is that you use harsh words to hurt others, God won’t be pleased if you give up mashed potatoes.” Give up using those words! Sacrifice some time to spend more time in your Formed modules or other podcasts, with Word Among Us or The Magnificat, to faithfully read the Lenten Black Book. The bulletin will have more opportunities. And to learn more about the scriptural view of Christ’s Death and Resurrection, attend the talks by an earnest speaker Feb. 24 and March 3.
Our leader has given the call. Our 40-day campaign is to follow him in our own ways of embracing the good and the holy, leaving the sinful and selfishness behind. Are you ready?
Fr. Tom Wyrsch