Reflections on the Readings
The First Sunday of Lent - February 26, 2012 - Year B
By Dennis S. Hankins
Silence: For What Ails the Soul
The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him.
A local church sign in the neighborhood reads:
"To hear God's voice, turn down the world's noise."
Someone may ask, "Where's the knob?" It is sometimes difficult to find the knob to turn down the noise in our lives.
Have you ever visited someone only to find the show on the TV was more important than you?
Noise. There's lots of it. And the mystery of faith is not very easily found in the noise. But we can't say that all noise is bad. However, having no silence in our lives is not good. Lent is that season on the Christian calendar that invites us to live with less noise; to make room for prayer and fasting and remembering those less fortunate. This is a forty day reminder that some things are more important and need to be more prominent in our lives.
This is a period of time when we reflect more deeply on the mystery of God's love. And we can do that with better results if we deny ourselves that extra helping and eating desert at every meal.
If for health or age reasons you cannot fast, there are other spiritually beneficial ways to embrace the season of Lent. All of us can deepen our prayer life and make room in our daily lives for the scriptures and remember the plight of the poor.
Animated by the Spirit, Jesus found a place in the wilderness to be near his Father. It was a place of mystery and wonder. Wild animals wandered about. Satan intruded into the sacred silence in the wilderness to tempt the Son of God. Being alone with God can have its challenges.
We too will encounter Satan's resistance to our Lenten practices. He does not take kindly to folks taking seriously their relationship with the Father. And he will let you know. But do not be afraid, Jesus has already fought with the old serpent and we can take refuge in the mighty name of Jesus.
Space and time and silence come together in Lent and bring healing to the soul. Why is there so much unrest in our soul? "Why are you disquieted within me?" the Psalmist asks. In these forty days of Lent we learn again to be still and to know in the depth of our soul that God is God and there is none other.
In these forty days we must carve out a little space and time and quietness to hear again the peaceful voice of God. It is that still, small voice we too often don't hear. We can't hear it because we're too busy. We are filled with too much noise. And we are running about to the neglect of the things that matter most. All of that changes if we will accept the gift that Lent give us; the gift of knowing again that with God, nothing is impossible. We need this truth to touch us deeply if we are not to become weary in doing what is right.
We will encounter the beasts of intolerance and bigotry and coercion. There will be little trials and maybe bigger trials and temptations we will learn to overcome in the strength of Christ. Spiritual warfare is real. No doubt about it. But we can't be true heirs of the faith if don't fight the good fight of faith.
So let's engage these days. Let's embrace them with the intent of bringing our shriveled up souls into the presence of the Spirit of grace. We can't win the spiritual battles that will come if we are not well suited with the helmet of salvation and with the breastplate of righteousness. Our armor includes shoes made out of the gospel of peace and our hand holds the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. This armor is the spiritual protection we get for our soul during this season of Lent.
Walking into work one day I made the sign of the cross as I walked to my desk to begin my shift at 8 a.m. It would be another day of taking customer calls and explaining why the caller's account was overdrawn and bleeding red. One of my colleagues questioned me about making the sign of the cross and in a concerned voice she asked, "What's wrong, Dennis?"
I responded, "O nothing. I'm just putting on the whole armor!" She answered in an understanding way, "O! O.K!"
Let's make the sign of the cross and turn down the noise in our world and enter into Lent expecting to hear the voice of God again. Let's do this for the sake of our soul.