In Lent We Ought To Seek His Face
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
A friend of mine giving me ideas about teaching the middle school kids faith formation said to ask them frequently: “Where did you see God this week?” It struck me as a good question for adults and for myself. And it struck me that this is the purpose of Lent, our fasts, our prayers and our alms giving are meant to humble us before God, to seek his face, to dispose ourselves more to prayer, to understand the things of God more clearly, to prepare ourselves to meet Him. This is why we don’t eat meat on Fridays or perhaps get up early to pray or avoid alcohol or not watch TV or play the radio in the car. Fasting must be for God, not for us. We need to be stripped away from all the distractions in order to find Him. We need a desert.
We have many needs: to rest, exercise, eat, sleep, etc. But our deepest need is to be with God. This is how we are made. This is the topic of this series during Lent to remind ourselves that God is present, and he is in charge, and I am his creature. I need in a deeper way to find my place, in relation to him.
The temptations of Jesus can help us since they speak of all temptations that face us and more profoundly they speak of how we think of God, or how we think he should act. Mark’s version (1: 12-15) is very brief but it does show us that Jesus was in a place of healing, and that even the beasts became his friends.
You see our tendency is always to push God aside. I have more urgent things to do and these are the things that fill my life. Then I build the foundation of my house and my life without him. I see only the practical or material needs of the day and I set him aside. I don’t see him, and he is not making any demands on me, yet I know without him my life loses all meaning.
The primordial lie of the devil to our first parents is if you eat the forbidden fruit you will not die, you will become like God. But when we cut with God we die ontologically and lose our bearings and direction, and we make of ourselves God. We are not so conscious of this, but this is a fact, and hopefully you will discover this for yourselves.
The devil pretends to show us a better way. What is real for us today is bread, or we can say security and financial stability, and power over myself and those around me. There is a great arrogance in the temptations of the devil (Matthew 4: 1-11): if you are the Son of God turn these stones into bread, if you are the Son of God come down off the cross. Jesus is constantly being challenged to prove himself. And you and I do the same. Why didn’t you stop this nineteen year old kid from killing those seventeen people in Florida? Why did my sister die of leukemia, or my daughter have autism, why am I short or broke? We demand answers and explanations from God. You put yourself above him.
Lent is a time to discover that God acts differently. He works quietly, and subtlety, without a lot of attention. He does not throw himself off the pinnacle of the Temple but he does lower himself into the abyss of death and of hell. He does this as an act of love; he does this in obedience to God’s plan for his people. He does this knowing that he would fall into the hands of his father.
If you follow the will of God you have a certainty that even if terrible things happen you will never loose your final refuge. The foundation of the world is love and even if no human being helps you, you can trust in the one who made you. This is a very different outlook from making God into my servant, my genie in the bottle.
Only when power submits to God can it be a power for good, only then can it be trusted. If the heart of man is not good, nothing he does can be good. Man can have life only by tapping into the source of life, the Word of life itself. If we were truly Christians then everyone would have enough food. When we distribute to the Third World we leave God out and then ignore the indigenous religions, the social structures and cultures and we hand them stones rather than bread.
Our first and foremost effort is obedience to God’s Word. The essence of all religion is the worship of God, and God alone. A Jesuit priest who was executed by the Nazis said, “Bread is important, freedom is more important, but most important of all is an unbroken fidelity and faithful adoration of God.”
On a plane the instructions for parents with small children is put the oxygen mask on yourself first, then your child. If you pass out first then neither you nor your child will survive. If you don’t meet this deeper need for God first, neither will your child. Feed your soul first and then you can feed others. Lead yourself and then you can lead others. Don’t make the need for money, education, exercise an idol. It is a struggle I have not to make the affections of my mother an idol. I am called to love God first, and when I do that then I can love my mother and everyone else.
We have a need for rest but then people go to places that cannot bring rest to their souls. It is just the opposite. It over stimulates. You have a need for healing but instead of turning for real help from God you self-medicate with TV, alcohol, exercise, etc. It is like fast food for the soul; there’s no nourishment.
So come and listen to this series and discover your deeper needs. Examine yourself this week and ask yourself if you saw someone you loved doing what you are doing would you be concerned? Would you want your children or friends to follow what you are doing? Small groups can help us to get to know ourselves and get to know God.