I appreciate that Jesus went off into the desert to have some silent time to reflect before he began to call His disciples and perform miracles. It shows his humanity and that He too had to take some time to make sure that He was mentally, physically, and spiritually in order before doing what He was called to do.
So while I don't love this time of Lent, I appreciate it. It is the Church's built in opportunity to have us check-in with ourselves and call us back to God if we have strayed too far from Him or His Church.
The readings today for the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time are perfect for reflecting before we enter the desert of Lent. The Old Testament reading is from Leviticus (which doesn't get much love or read very often at Mass since it is a book mainly for Jewish priests and full of Jewish rituals) that speaks of love of enemy. Jesus echoes this message in the Gospel and tells his followers to take it even farther: to give up your cloak for your neighbor, to go the literal extra mile for your neighbor, to turn your cheek and forgive your neighbor when he/she/they hurt you.
During Lent, we try to be a little kinder, a little gentler with ourselves and with others. Yes, we give up food items or fast from bad habits (I'm giving up Instagram this year!) but these sacrifices are meant to draw us closer to God and ultimately unite us with Christ's sacrifice on the Cross. Can't say that my measly deleting of an app for 40 days will quite compare to the agape (sacrificial love) that is shown to us on Good Friday, but I am hoping that the extra time I have will be extra time to pray for others and to offer up that little sacrifice to God.
The homily I heard today was about the importance of "agape" love which is fitting since we are about to experience and remember the ultimate example of sacrificial love in the coming weeks leading up to the culmination of Christ's ministry during Holy Week. A definition of love that I have always loved (heh :) is Thomas Aquinas' a la Aristotle's definition (which my former high school students can attest to as I made them memorize it!). Love is, according to those guys: "the effective willing of the good of the other." And since it is almost Lent, now is a great time to check ourselves: have I wanted the good for people around me? Have I worked to make that good effective for them?
These are good examinations for Lent and certainly when we go to confession, but I think also for this period in our time in history. It is an election year and with the internet, it is so easy to tear down our neighbor and not wish or work for the good for them. Perhaps for Lent we can fast from internet trolling or making comments about our neighbors or perceived enemies.
What are you thinking of doing for Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving this Lent?
Ready or not, here we go into the desert journey of Lent together. May it bring us closer to God and one another.