A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
Lent begins with our commitment to fast, to come away from our usual habits and pleasures, so that we may stand with a more ready focus on the presence and goodness of God. “Rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and merciful,” we read from the prophet Joel in the Penitential Rite on Ash Wednesday.
It is a time when the voices of the Old Testament law and prophets become more clear, calling us to follow along the way in which the promise to Abraham is finally fulfilled, in the life of the Messiah. It is the way of faith, and the soul’s faithfulness to commit itself to the loving purposes of the Father, gathering to Himself His people. It is the surrender of our private, solitary purposes, for the sake of the better purposes of God.
And that also means that in the midst of this fallen world, it is a way of trials, and sometimes, sorrows. Because the voices and influences to the contrary are legion. Do not imagine that the devil is a fairy tale, or that wickedness is not a present power in the world. And let us also never imagine that such forces are too strange or difficult for us to be bothered with. “We wrestle,” St. Paul tells us, “not with flesh and blood…but against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against the spiritual forces that oppose heavenly places.” We oppose what opposes God.
And if we are to do so, if we are to pass the test in the time of trial, to turn the other cheek in order to take up spiritual arms against the demons, then we must come to the Master, and let His ways become our ways. “O Lord, who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights,” prays our collect: that is, only in the example and present power of our Lord, can we hold any hope of confronting the temptations of the darkness faithfully. Because the enemy’s lies are many, and subtle. Left to our own devices, we simply don’t have the intellectual wherewithal to deal with all of it, nor are we meant too. At best, we would spend all our days arguing with the devil, and in the process, lose our lives.
But Jesus does have the wherewithal. And His answers may become our answers, as we embrace Him faithfully, in the wilderness. “Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, And him only shalt thou serve.” So it is to be for us. We are to find our Lord, standing the trials with us and for us, and in His power, we are freed from them—“for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” He told them. And so, even here and now, in our own time, we may find ourselves carried on by Christ, ‘the wisdom of God and the power of God,’ and with Paul we may know ourselves, “as dying, and behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”
Thanks be to God.