As I try and compose my thoughts for this article, a number of women of the church are hard at work upstairs, setting up for tomorrow morning’s Ash Wednesday breakfast. By the time you read this the breakfast will have been consumed and the day, too, will be history.
Perhaps you joined us for this event; perhaps not. Perhaps you observed Ash Wednesday as the religious observance it generally is, or it may have been “just another day” for you.
This is that time of year when for some Christians the day isn’t complete without ashes being imposed upon their forehead in the sign of the Cross. Let that tell-tale smudge suffice as conclusive evidence the wearer takes his or her faith seriously
Regardless of your personal perspective about Ash Wednesday, Christians the world over understand this day to be the beginning of Lent. Unlike the annual, joy-filled celebration of Christmas, which for the Church is all about the God’s coming into the world as the Christ child, the season of Lent is a far more serious and somber experience.
It serves to remind us there is nothing in our lives—i.e., no trials or tribulation, no hardship or suffering — God is ignorant of, or insensitive to. Indeed, be reminded anew of the intense persecution and rejection that was so much a real part of Jesus’ life!
He was born a Jew—and died as one, too! — but from Day #1 until the very end of his life he lived among and interacted with other Jewish boys and girls, men and women. As a boy, there is no reason to suspect anyone found fault with him; except for one particular instance, when he debated with learned scholars in the Temple, nothing distinguished him from his peers.
All that changed with the advent of Jesus’ ministry. Even as Jesus presented himself to John the Baptist to be baptized, the Baptist himself questioned the order of things.
Immediately following that unique event, Jesus started attracting attention that was much less favorable. Alone, our Lord was compelled to endure the literal presence of evil itself, i.e., the Devil, for the next forty days; we have Jesus to thank for the pertinent details (Matt. 4:1-11).
And we think we have it rough?!? In some sense of the term, Yes — we do! Needless to
say, though, much of what comes our way is alien to the Bible — such as the fact the price of gasoline is soon expected to be $4 a gallon, a situation the ever-peripatetic Jesus and his disciples never had to contend with!
But of course, some things never change: disease, sickness, and all such related suffering still is on-going in our present day-and-age. Just as leprosy was especially prevalent then, in this present time heart disease and cancer are poxes upon many in our land.
Poverty is endemic to many parts of the globe, too, yet a quick survey of this area informs us there are more than a few struggling to obtain adequate food for their family, and whose homes aren’t necessarily as safe, warm, and dry as those others of us inhabit. All-in-all, the things we want and the problems we generally concern ourselves with tend to be of a material and physical nature, whereas the Lord specializes in fixing our spiritual needs.
Were you to re-read the passage I cited above, you’ll note Satan tempted Jesus in three specific areas: materially, spiritually, and politically—and in that order. You should also be aware of the fact he was misquoting Scripture, in a failed attempt to deceive Jesus.
Our Lord effectively acquitted himself against the devil’s aggressive posturing, unlike how the vast majority of God’s children would fare. That, of course, would be us.
Ironically—or not, given our carnal nature — we’re more focused on things pertaining to our “creaturely comfort” as opposed to things in the spiritual realm. In this sense, I respectfully submit our priorities are more than a little skewed.
Here, again, Jesus has counseled us to NOT worry about our material needs, however obvious or numerous they might be (Matt. 6:25-34). Instead, we are explicitly advised to get our “spiritual house” in order, to focus first and foremost upon living lives of faith and obedience — centered on our ever-loving and patient Heavenly Father.
If during Lent we get right with God, repent of our sins and wrong-doing, give God priority over our egos and wants—we are being true to the spirit of this season. To do is to be.