Close your eyes and imagine yourself in Capernaum at the time of Jesus. Maybe you are a potter at the potter’s wheel or a mother cooking a meal for the family or you are gathered with other women at the Sea of Galilee doing the laundry or helping your dad who is a fisherman. You can feel the cool breeze of the Sea of Galilee caressing your face. A preacher comes to town. He walks up to you. He catches your attention by looking into your eyes. His warm smile melts the defenses within you. He says to you, “The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel (Mark 1:15).” You hear the urgency in his voice as he announces the nearness of God’s Kingdom. He invites you to repent. You think of the choices you have made—the good ones and the ones you want to forget. You feel yourself being drawn to him as he invites you to believe in the Gospel. (Slowly bring yourself back to the present moment.)
St. Ignatius of Loyola encouraged his brothers to pray with their imagination when they approached a scripture text by placing themselves in the story. By doing so, it opens the scripture to the moment “now.” I did this during the past week and I realize I was hearing the message as an invitation to this time of Lent—a time of faith. You too, by using your imagination, have heard His call as you begin this Lenten journey. Lent becomes a time to anticipate the nearness of God’s Kingdom. It becomes a wilderness where we, as James Martin SJ states in his book, Jesus, “need to name our own demons—we need to say, ‘I am vain’ or ‘I am greedy’ or ‘I have this addiction’ in order open ourselves to healing.” Once we open yourselves to healing, you are well on the road to repenting. The wilderness was a place where Jesus battled evil, as each of us must do daily.
Life can be difficult, it can be unfair and it can knock us down. A promise not to drink can be shattered by walking into a bar. A promise to be non-judgmental falls apart when the other person does something stupid, at least in our eyes. The promise to be clean of heart is lost in a glance. “Sin crouches nearby, to tempt us in our struggles, our losses and our suffering,” John Martens said. The permanent changes we seek in our lives are difficult, but not impossible. Instead of giving up for Lent, we have to give in to the Holy Spirit and the real presence of Jesus in Word and sacrament. Look at what Jesus has done for us, St. Peter recounts in our second reading. He died for us, brought us to God the Father, and has given you God’s Words. On our own, we would never have been able to reconcile ourselves to God, but by the power of Jesus Christ this has been accomplished. If he has done this once for us, will He not do the same as we battle our demons? This is where believing is so important.
We can experience the true joy of Lent by owning up to ourselves and facing the challenges in our lives. Let us take a moment to name the one permanent change we want to make this Lenten Season—the one demon we want to get rid of. (Pause to name this for yourself.)
Come Holy Spirit.
Come Holy Spirit.
We give in to you, Holy Spirit and to you, Jesus
knowing that your power is brought to perfection in our weakness.
By your strength help us to overcome
the evil we wish to abandon.
If we fall, be there to pick us up
so can continue the good fight
and come to rest in the joy of Easter.
We ask this in your name always and forever.