From the Bishop
Once again Lent is upon us. We all know what the season of Lent is and that sacrifice is the key to a good Lent. Beginning on Ash Wednesday we center our thoughts on Jesus Christ and His journey in the Judean desert. He was actually setting Himself aside to prepare for His forthcoming ministry. He wanted to separate Himself from the chaos of the cities and the distractions of this world. During this time our Lord fasted, eating and drinking only the minimum He needed to survive. With prayer and meditation He focused His heart and mind on God the Father and the task of spreading the good news of the love of God. He was in constant prayer to His Father in heaven. While in this lonely place and deep in prayer the devil came to Him with temptations. These are the same temptations we experience in our lives. On the cliff Jesus stood hungry and tired weak in body but strong with the strength of God the Father. Yet with each temptation He rebuffed the devil with heavenly truth, the truth that God provides all we need or could desire – food, security, and safety in His arms. After defeating the devil our Lord went to Galilee to begin His ministry.
We as Christians can intellectually understand the concept and the need of fasting. We can explain to others, even to nonbelievers, what Christ was doing during His time in the desert. But we need more than an intellectual reaction to the gospel. We need to know how our lives and sacrifices compare to His.
Has 2000 years dulled our empathy and desire to sacrificially live a life for Christ? Today, the general population has no thought of true sacrifice. We no longer suffer when we sacrifice. It appears that we talk a good line but do we really live the truth of the Gospel and the truth of Christ’s sacrifice for us.
In our minds we often tend to romanticize the past. In our minds we can envision an elderly woman kneeling in church praying. Her prayers are not for her own gain or safety but that her sacrifice for Lent will be an acceptable sacrifice to our Lord. When we were Confirmed we asked the Holy Ghost for the gift of Holy Fear. This woman is an example of that fear. Not the fear of punishment for displeasing our Father but the fear of not living up to the person He created us to be.
I have often found that when you ask someone what they are doing for Lent you get one of two responses. The first response is a swift and confident answer. These people have thought about what Lent is and how to best use the time. The second response is a moment of silence with a slight look of confusion. These people have only thought of Lent in the moment they were asked. They stand before you searching for an answer that sounds convincing and might redirect the conversation. They feel the suffering and sacrifice of Lent only for that uncomfortable moment and then like the seed that falls on poor soil, Lent fades in the distance.
It seems today no matter what we decide to sacrifice it can be easily replaced. If we do not constantly remember the true sacrifice of Christ as our example we just replace our sacrifice with a simple substitution. When we give up chocolate we might be tempted to replace it with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a sweet for a sweet, or we might give up going to the movies but replace it by watching more television. If we do not stay the course we will fail in our sacrifice.
Let’s return to the old woman in the pew. What she sacrificed might have been the bread she ate once a week and she had nothing for a substitute. It is difficult to relate to that kind of sacrifice because we have so much in our lives. How many of us would be willing to go to bed hungry – as she might have. This world is so full of distraction it is hard to truly feel that we have given sacrificially.
Let’s try this Lent to do better. Try to give up something that at the end of each and everyday we feel empty in some way. Then fill that void with Christ – with meditation, prayer, or spiritual readings. Let us follow our Lord into the desert separating ourselves from this world. Let us face our temptations with Him on our side. Let this Lent be a time of sacrifice, and overcoming our temptations through the example of Christ in the desert. Every day remember our Lord sacrificed not for Himself but for all of is children.
May each of us have a profitable Lent and with hope of salvation look forward to the Resurrection in the glorious light of our Lord.
Yours in Christ
+Rommie M Starks
Bishop of the Midwest