40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday after Ash Wednesday, 04 March 2022
Isaiah 58:1-9 ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[>< Matthew 9:14-15
Thank you for this gift of first Friday
in March, a Friday after Ash Wednesday
as we begin our 40 day journey of Lent;
forgive us, dear God our Father, that
gone are the days when we your children
religiously observed fasting and abstinence;
we have ceased fasting not only on the
prescribed days of Ash Wednesday
and Good Friday but even before receiving
the Holy Communion in the Sunday Mass,
making all kinds of excuses with bold claims
of having sacrificed so much in doing "good deeds"
that we need not fast from food anymore.
Make us realize these are the same mistakes
of the people in the Old Testament
of having themselves as the focus of fasting
than you, O God, through others:
“Why do we fast, and you do not see it?
Afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?”
Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting,
striking with wicked claw.
Would that today you might fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!”
In this age of affluence even in the midst
of a pandemic, make us realize, Lord Jesus
your mystery of Incarnation through "kenosis" -
of self-emptying which is what fasting is all about.
Teach us not to be always adequate, not to be
too self-sufficient that we forget the value of
being empty and in need of others and most
especially of you; let us rediscover this Lent
the beauty of denying ourselves of things
that give us pleasures and comfort
that we forget you and others; may we realize
that it is only in emptiness through fasting
that you can fill us with yourself, almighty God;
it is only in emptiness through fasting
we can learn to truly trust and believe
in you, dear Lord, as our only strength
Surprise us, O Lord, of the many
benefits of self-denial, primary of
which is becoming better persons
without us really knowing it and most
of all, unconsciously becoming your
very presence among other people:
“Then your light shall break forth
like the dawn, and your wound
shall quickly be healed; your vindication
shall go before you,
and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer,
you shall cry for help,
and he will say, Here I am!”
How wonderful it is
when eventually we become
your presence, O God,
speaking through us,
saying, “Here I am”! for it is
only then your Son Jesus
is indeed the groom celebrating
with us. Amen.
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Ash Wednesday, 02 March 2022
Joel 2:12-18 ><}}}}*> 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 ><}}}}*> Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
For the third straight year, we enter the Season of Lent in the most unusual conditions in the world. Perhaps, even surreal. We had in 2020 the start of the COVID-19 pandemic persisting through 2021 up to the present that has altered the way we live and how we look at life.
Just when we felt like “Easter” coming in 2021, there came the stronger Delta variant at around this time that claimed so many lives among us.
Now in 2022 after we have all the vaccines available to put COVID-19 in control with a “tamer” variant Omicron, we have a more serious concern with Russia invading Ukraine.
To a certain degree, it is “good” this had happened at this time when we are starting the Lenten Season with Ash Wednesday that reminds us the question we should be asking is not “where is God” but “where are we, his people”?
It has always been the same question ever since – of “where are we in relation to God” every time there are man-made and natural disasters like wars and famine, epidemics and plagues, or earthquakes, drought and floods.
It is easier to blame God for all of our troubles because he is always silent, never answering us back; but, it is in his silence when we also realize the truth that we are the ones who have drifted apart from God, who have gone lost away from him who is always looking for us, waiting for us to come back.
It is in the silence of God that he is most present especially when we are deep in sin and sufferings.
Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment. Why should they say among the peoples, “Where is their God?” Then the Lord was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people.
Joel 2:12-13, 17b-18
Lent: A coming home to God for us mortals, sinners, and ruined
Lent is a “coming home” to God with Ash Wednesday serving like a porch that leads us inside the “house of God” with each of its five Sundays acting like a door opening us closer and closer into the innermost room where God is.
In the shadows of the war in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic and the heated national elections in our country, let us focus on the practice of giving of ashes every Ash Wednesday which is a gesture often mentioned in the Bible.
Ashes remind us first of all, of our mortality, that we shall all die one day. This is the reason why we priests say “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Gen.2:7) while imposing ashes on your foreheads in the form of a cross.
And there lies the good news too of Ash Wednesday: we do not just die, rot and return to ash because at the end of time, we shall all rise again to become whole – body and soul – like Jesus Christ!
Though we are marked for death, Ash Wednesday reassures us of our resurrection and salvation in Christ signified by the ash in the form of a cross on our foreheads.
Ashes signal our readiness for repentance as expressed in the new formula in the imposition of ashes, “Turn from sin and believe in the Gospel”.
Recall how in the Book of Jonah when the king of Nineveh removed his royal robe, covered himself in sackcloth, and sat in ashes upon hearing Jonah’s preaching as he ordered too his people to do the same that averted the wrath of God.
In the gospels of Matthew and Luke, we find how Jesus lambasted the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida for not repenting upon seeing his mighty deeds, so unlike the pagans at Tyre and Sidon who would have “repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes” (Mt. 11:21 & Lk.10:13).
Ashes also signify ruin, destruction and devastation in life like Job who had lost all precious to him when he said, “(God) He has cast me into the mire; I am leveled with the dust and ashes” (Job 30:19).
It is the most applicable signification of ashes to us today in this time of prolonged pandemic with its deep emotional and psychological impact on everyone trying to grapple with life’s many challenges as we try to start anew almost daily.
The feeling is best described by the Book of Lamentations in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem: “Those accustomed to dainty food perish in the streets; those brought up in purple now cling to the ash heaps” (Lam. 4:5).
Indeed, that ash on our foreheads reminds us of the ruin we are into as an individual, as a nation, as citizens of the world.
How often did we have to shelve and postpone our many plans in life since 2020 due to this pandemic with its recurring surges now worsened by this war at Ukraine launched by Russian president Putin?
We were already sighing in great relief the past weeks with declining cases of COVID when suddenly – to our great disbelief and dismay that this can still happen in the 21st century when Putin invaded Ukraine, casting the world into another grave danger of unimagined proportion.
And lastly, who does not feel ruined after all these years of the pandemic worsened by decadent politics that has gone into an abyss of filth and insanity?
Now more than ever we could feel and experience the “ash heap” we are into with only God who can raise us up and cleanse us again.
Lent is a joyful season!
Contrary to what most people believe, Lent is not all that drab and dry. While its prevailing mood is of sobriety and seriousness in the light of its call for penance, fasting and almsgiving, Lent is a joyful season preparing us to Easter.
St. Paul tells us in the second reading that “now is the day of salvation”:
Brothers and sisters: We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
2 Corinthians 5:20, 6:2
To be reconciled with God who is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” begins right inside our hearts when we open it – rend – so it may be cleansed of sins for Jesus to dwell inside again.
It is the heart that must be strengthened and converted by our lenten practices because its purity is revealed by our very lives, the kind of life we lead, the aura we project even if half of our face is covered by the face mask.
This is the very essence of the Lord’s calls in the gospel to do these practices “in secret”, not be seen by others that it becomes more of a show. It is God whom we must please, not the people; to enter into one’s room is to enter into one’s self to meet God with our true selves, without our usual alibis, of ifs and buts.
This is the grace of Lent that begins on this Ash Wednesday: it is God who actually comes to us, to meet us, to work in us in his “mercy and graciousness” so we may experience his loving presence again despite all our sins and troubles.
Life is a daily Lent, a cleansing of our hearts, a repairing of our hearts ruined especially when we have truly loved and ended up being misunderstood and persecuted.
Do not worry, human love is always imperfect; only God can love us perfectly. That is what Ash Wednesday is reminding us, that we are finite and sinful, ruined most of the time but always open to God who never leaves nor forsakes us his children.
In this spirit, let us also not forget that Lent is a journey we take with others, a daily exodus from darkness to light, from sickness to healing, from ruins to newness, from sin to forgiveness and grace.
We come home to God together as a people, as a family, as brothers and sisters in Christ.
May our gathering together on this Ash Wednesday be an occasion to free ourselves from the ever-growing threats of individualism that has marked our age with everyone feeling a celebrity, even playing God.
Please don’t forget to practice fasting and abstinence today to create a space for God and for others in your heart.
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday after Ash Wednesday, 19 February 2021
Isaiah 58:1-9 <*(((>< + ><)))*> Matthew 9:14-15
Today I remember, O Lord, our old days of yore when Fridays were of simple food of all fish and veggies without any meat, of how we were told to remember this day so special because of Good Friday even if it were not the Season of Lent.
Austerity and low key were all over as peg to make your presence, O God, during Lent that the prevailing mood was more of joy than of being somber and serious as most people would think these days of fasting and abstinence as self-inflicted sufferings and pains.
Forgive us this modern age of instants and affluence, fasting has become centered on our very selves, with our “piety” like the Pharisees (Matt.9:14) who questioned Jesus why his disciples did not fast unlike them and the followers of John.
Enlighten us on this first Friday of Lent to realize anew that this is a season of joy and rejoicing because when we fast, we become empty of ourselves, of our filth and sins so we can be filled with your Holy Spirit to become your vessels of justice and love and joy with one another.
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.
How lovely and beautiful the world must be if we shall heed your words, fulfill your longing from us in true fasting more focused only in making you present among us who have gone to choose darkness over light.
O God our Father, give us the wisdom and courage to return to you so we can offer ourselves for others to feel you as we await the great rejoicing of Easter, the very joy of Lent. Amen.
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Ash Wednesday, 17 February 2021
It is Lent again, Lord;
forty days of prayer
forty days of sacrifices
forty days of good works
forty days of silence and self-control
forty days of preparations for Easter.
Forgive us that we always forget our daily life
is essentially a daily Lent:
a daily exodus of going to the wilderness
filled with temptations
and calls for fidelity
to your love and person.
In this time of COVID-19
when so many of us are suffering,
help me, O Lord
not to be carried by feelings
and emotions of the Lenten Season;
give me the courage to see
beyond ordinary things,
to care more and share
even with the least that I have,
to find more reasons
to forgive and understand
most of all, to be fair and just with everyone.
Let me find my way back to you, Lord
in this time when everything and everyone I have
is quickly disappearing or have been gone or lost;
despite the face masks we wear,
let me look more into the eyes
of others to see your image and likeness;
let me wash my hands clean of evil and deceit
as I keep distance from occasions of sins
and most of all, let me empty myself of pride
to realize and experience again
my one and only, first true love is you,
alone, O dearest God. Amen.
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Ash Wednesday, 17 February 2021
Joel 2:12-18 >><)))*> 2Corinthians 5:20-6:2 >><)))*> Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Today we begin our annual Lenten pilgrimage with Ash Wednesday in the very different situation and conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic now in its first full year. Although this may be the most unusual, both unreal and surreal Lent since the end of Second World War, this could also be our most real Lent so far.
Being real means getting into the very core of our very selves, focusing on the more essential that are invisible to the eyes. Since the popularity of social media and smart phones, life has become more of a big show than of living that we care more of lifestyles than life itself.
All three readings today invite us to get real, to confront our true selves, stop all pretensions by letting go of our many excuses and alibis. No more ifs and buts. Just our bare selves before God for tomorrow or later may be too late. St. Paul’s words perfectly express the challenge and beauty of Lent 2021:
Brothers and sisters: We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
2 Corinthians 5:20, 6:2
Lent is a journey into inner self
to reach out to God through others.
The forty days of Lent are a journey characterized by three important acts so central not only to Christianity but also to the other two great faiths of the world, Judaism and Islam. These are fasting, prayer and alms giving. Through these acts, we journey back into our very selves in order to reach out to God through others.
And we start by cleansing our very selves through the putting of dry ashes on the crown of our head instead of the more usual imposition on forehead to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The use of ashes as an outward sign of our inner cleansing beautifully tells us of its being natural cleansing agents long before the invention of chemical solutions. As such, being closest to earth, ashes remind us so well of our mortality, “for dust thou art and unto dust shall you return”!
However, though we are all marked for death as the ashes signify, they are blessed at the start of today’s Mass to remind us too that we die in Jesus Christ because ultimately, we return to God who is our true origin and end.
Hence, the need to cleanse our very selves by emptying ourselves of all the dirt and filth of sin inside that have marred our image and likeness in God. More than the outward appearance of putting ashes on our heads to signify cleansing is its internal significance of cleansing within by self- emptying through fasting.
In fasting, we cleanse our inner selves by denying ourselves not only of food but also of the usual things that fill us especially in this age of affluence and consumerism. Not only of material things but anything that make us forget God and others, that make us forget that we are mere mortals, weak and imperfect.
By fasting, we empty ourselves of our pride to be filled with Christ’s humility, justice, and love so we realize the world does not revolve around us. That we do not need so many “likes” and “followers” like in social media that inflate our ego but still leave us empty and lost.
And now is the perfect time, as St. Paul reminds us.
When we look back in this past year, so many of our relatives and friends have died, some alone, due to COVID-19 and other illnesses. The pandemic had grimly reminded us of life’s fragility and the need to be more loving always because we’ll never know if we can still be with everyone.
Fasting reminds us who and what are most essential in this life like God, life, and loved ones. Not likes or followers, luxuries, money, fame, or food.
In Tagalog, the word for meat is “laman”; to fast and go without meat literally means “walang laman” which also means “empty”!
When we fast and become empty, then we create space for God and for others.
That is why it is easier to pray and be one with God in meditation and contemplation when our stomach and senses are empty because we become more sensitive to his presence in Jesus. Silence in itself is a kind of fasting, the very key to any form of prayer.
Who needs to look gloomy when fasting when we are filled with the most wonderful and essential in this life who is God as Jesus tells us in the gospel, “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites” (Mt.6:16).
In the same manner, whatever we save in our fasting, whatever we deny ourselves, we give and share with others in alms giving. Try opening your Facebook. What fills up your page? Your selfies? Your me-time? Your work and errands? Whatever fills your FB page, most often it always gratifies you for better and for worse. And yes, of course, they all indicate how glamorous and fabulous is your life.
This Lent 2021, so many people have lost their jobs. So many are struggling to make ends meet. Others’ sufferings have become more unbearable not only with financial difficulties but simply due to difficult conditions traveling to undergo chemotherapy or dialysis.
Life has been so unreal, even surreal for all of us since last year. And God is the one most sad of all in what we have been going through in this pandemic. But he cannot do anything for us because we still rely so much with our very selves, with our science and technology that all feed on to our pride and selfishness. Every day we hear of news of all kinds of abuses and lack of kindness going on, even among states and governments in the allocation of vaccines.
The pandemic is not purely medical and biological in nature but something spiritual.
Now, more than ever, is the Prophet Joel’s call more true:
Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning. Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.
If there is anyone who wishes this pandemic to end so we can see and be near with each other without any fear of getting sick, of dying, that must be God. Like St. Paul, let us implore everyone to be reconciled with God right in our hearts by taking our fasting, praying, and alms giving seriously. Amen.
40 Shades of Lent, Friday after Ash Wednesday, 28 February 2020
Isaiah 58:1-9 +++ 0 +++ Matthew 9:14-15
Have mercy on us, O God, have mercy… for we are still totally lost on the real meaning of fasting and abstinence. We have lost its spiritual meaning, focusing more on ourselves for vanity reasons like losing weight and looking good, totally forgetting fasting is all about you and others than us!
How unfortunate, dear God, that we no longer fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday but even on Sundays before receiving your Son Jesus in the Holy Communion by making all kinds of excuses with bold claims of having sacrificed so much in doing good deeds for you.
Thus says the Lord God: Cry out full-throated and unsparingly, lift up your voice like a trumpet blast. Tell my people their wickedness, and the house of Jacob their sins. They seek me day after day, and desire to know my ways, like a nation that has done what is just and not abandoned the law of their God. They ask me to declare what is due them, pleased to gain access to God. “Why do we fast, and you do not see it? Afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?” Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits, and drive all your laborers. Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw. This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.”
Isaiah 58:1-4, 6-7
Make us realize that fasting is not punishing ourselves, of denying ourselves with goods and pleasures of the world that leave us empty, wanting for more but never fulfilled deep inside.
Fasting is actually rewarding ourselves with you, O God, our only wealth and treasure, our only fulfillment.
Help us create an empty space within ourselves through fasting and abstinence so that your Son Jesus may dwell and reign in our hearts, saying from within us, “Here I am!” (Is. 58:9).Amen.
40 Shades of Lent, Ash Wednesday, 26 February 2020
Joel 2:12-18 + + + 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 + + + Matthew 6:1-6,16-18
We begin today the Season of Lent, the 40 days of prayers and fasting, contrition and alms-giving in preparation for Easter Sunday. It is the only season in our liturgical calendar that starts on an ordinary day, Ash Wednesday when we are reminded of that basic truth in life we have always evaded: that we all die and go back to God.
“Remember man that dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
In this age of social media where many practically live in media making known to everyone everything happening to them from confinement to hospital to drinking coffee somewhere or simply saying “thank you” to someone just beside for a gift they have received, the more we need this blessed season to recover the essential realities in life like our true self and God.
So unlike Adam and Eve who went into hiding after their fall, modern men and women have shamelessly flaunt everything they think they have that actually indicate what they lack – depth and meaning, sense and respect.
Ash Wednesday enables us to find anew our bearings in life that must be centered in God, our very life and meaning of being and existence.
Life is a daily Lent.
St. Benedict tells his followers in his Rule that “the life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent”. And this is also very true for every Christian who follows Jesus Christ as Lord and Master.
Our life is a daily Exodus from darkness into light, from sin into grace, from failure into victory, from slavery into freedom when we experience the Paschal mystery of Jesus Christ even if we are not aware of it.
And the sooner we become aware of this reality, the better for us because that is when we find more meaning in life, the deeper our existence becomes.
Pope Francis tells us in his Lenten Message this year that “Jesus’ Pasch is not a past event; rather, through the power of the Holy Spirit it is ever present, enabling us to see and touch with faith the flesh of Christ in those who suffer.”
Life is all about God. This life we live is a sharing in his very life and the more are aware of this reality and link, the more we discover its beauty because we get to know God more in Jesus Christ who have come in flesh and blood for us.
“Brothers and sisters: We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
2 Corinthians 5:20
To be reconciled to God is to be one in God in Christ Jesus through daily conversion. This we achieve through the many sacrifices and corporal and spiritual works of mercy during this season. Fact is, these pious practices are meant to be done even outside the Lenten season so we never lose sight that life is all about God, not us.
Lent is a journey into our hearts, and into the heart of God, too!
In these 40 days of Lent, we try little by little to “rend our hearts, not our garments to return to the Lord our God” (Joel 2:13) through prayers and sacrifices. These are done not for others to see but primarily for us to find and meet God waiting for us always to experience his love and mercy, his life and his fullness right in our hearts.
Like in our gospels these past two weeks when we reflected on the “education of the heart”, it is the truth of the heart that is being worked out in Lent. It is our heart that must be strengthened and converted by all these religious practices of the season.
It is in our hearts where God dwells and resides though we often try to bury and disregard.
All these fasting and abstinence, confessions and alms-giving as well as other works of mercy are meant to create a space in our hearts for God and for others. Without the proper attitude in our hearts, everything then becomes a hypocrisy that neither deceives God nor fools humans.
See how Jesus in the gospel which is also a part of his Sermon on the Mount which we have been reflecting these past three Sundays of Ordinary Time have painstakingly reminded us to guard against pleasing humans than God.
Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.”
It is not that we are encouraged to give alms, pray and fast to get rewards from God that Jesus is telling us to practice these pieties but in order to be more focused with the Father. Ultimately, getting into heaven is the reason why Jesus came to save us, to assure us of this reward of being with the Father eternally. There is nothing else greater than that.
This is why Lent is all about God, not us.
In our journey to him this season, both as an individual and as a community, Lent enables us to free ourselves from our strong individualistic drives within so we can truly experience conversion in the midst of a community of believers.
The more we see God, we see our sinful selves, and that is when we are converted and renewed in Christ.
This is always marked with a deep realization that we are not alone, that there are also others suffering with whom we must share with God’s rich mercy and love rather than keep these for ourselves alone.
That is what that ash on our forehead reminds us, of God who loves us all, dwelling within each one of us, renewing us, loving us, and most of all, forgiving us. Amen.
Colossians 1:15-20 ><}}}*> ><}}}*> ><}}}*> Luke 5:33-39
Brothers and sisters, Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible… all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the Blood of his cross through him whether those on earth or those in heaven.
Colossians 1:15-16, 17, 19-20
What a lovely hymn in your honor, O Lord Jesus Christ! Truly in you we have experienced and proven indeed there is a God who loves us so much, and most of all, a personal God who relates with us, engages himself with us, one with us.
What a wonderful way to celebrate the first Friday of September 2019, a week of praying for important virtues we have forgotten in this modern world like the need to console those alone, to encourage so others may be whole again as a person, to be grateful for the person not the favor received, and to have knowledge to see God in everything by embracing the truths of faith.
In this age when God is just posited as a footnote in our daily lives, as a safety feature just in case things get off-hand or bad, you remind us to draw to you closer than ever in prayers, the Eucharist, and most of all, in fasting — something modern men and women frown upon and totally disregard.
Give us the grace O Lord Jesus to empty ourselves, to create a space within us for you to stay and dwell, and reign most of all.
We live today in the most trying times: everybody wants to be in control of everything, everybody wants to be heard and be seen alone as right with their twisted points of view about life and realities.
Bless us, Jesus, to find our way back to you, to be one with you again for you are the very reason why we are here. You are not just a person who had lived in the past we remember but the very reason of creation and redemption in whom the fullness of God is found. Amen.
40 Shades of Lent Week I, Year C, 10 March 2019 Deuteronomy 26:4-10//Romans 10:8-13//Luke 4:1-11
Our gospel story on this first Sunday of Lent about the tempting of Jesus at the desert sets the prevailing mood and disposition we must have on this holy season: docility to the Holy Spirit.
Docility is obedience. A docile person is an obedient one who is also attentive which is the literal translation of the Latin root docilitas. On the other hand, “obedience” is also from two Latin words “ob audire” that literally mean to listen intently. Here we find that Lent is a season that invites us to be attentive God and with others. Most of all, Lent is the season that calls us to recover this beautiful trait of docility and obedience by submitting and surrendering our selves to God and those above us like our parents.
How ironic and unfortunate that in our highly advanced world, we have become inattentive with persons and more attentive with things and gadgets. We have not only become less obedient but even less caring and kind with others because we no longer care at all with persons next to us. We cannot listen intently to parents and teachers, friends and almost everybody because our ears are always plugged with earphones while our eyes are fixed on screens! And maybe that explains why we always find ourselves into so many disastrous situations in our lives that could have been prevented had we been more attentive with our selves, with others and with God. According to a study in 2015, the average attention span of audience is 8.25 seconds while a goldfish has 9 seconds. This maybe the reason why looking at fish in an aquarium can be therapeutic… at least a goldfish can spare you with more attention than anyone!
Going back to our gospel this Sunday, we sense this spirit of docility of Jesus in the introduction and conclusion of Luke’s version of the temptation in the desert that follows right after His baptism at Jordan.
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry.
“Filled with the Holy Spirit.” What a beautiful expression to describe Jesus after His baptism at Jordan and in going to the wilderness to pray and fast, later to be tempted by the devil!
Docility in the Spirit is being filled with the Holy Spirit we first received in our Baptism, in Confirmation, in the Holy Communion and the sacraments. Every day like Jesus during His baptism at Jordan, we are filled with the Holy Spirit upon waking up because we are all beloved children of the Father. We have to claim the Holy Spirit who fills us, comes to us day in and day out. Docility in the Spirit is being attuned with God like a radio or any communication device that must be “connected” to a power or signal source. This is the reason we have to fast and do some sacrifices as well as pray during Lent so that we may be empty of our selves to be filled with the Holy Spirit and be docile to God. Without the Holy Spirit, there can be no docility.
Docility in the Spirit is entrance into the very person of Jesus Christ who is the beloved Son of God. The five Sundays of Lent are like doors that lead us closer into the innermost room of God. It is a journey that begins in our hearts. It is a journey we said last Ash Wednesday that is more about direction than destination. We enter the person of Jesus Christ, just like when He entered the synagogue at Nazareth to proclaim the reading from Isaiah that said “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” (Lk.4:14-21). The people were amazed at Jesus because He was so filled with the Holy Spirit that they really felt the part of the scripture fulfilled in His proclamation. Recall also the gospel last Sunday when Jesus said “from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks” (Lk.6:45) to remind us that whatever good or evil comes from us comes from what is in our hearts, from the kind of spirit that fills us.
Jesus was consistently filled with the Holy Spirit up to the end, was consistently docile to the Father that reached its summit at the Cross because he was also continuously tempted on many occasions by the devil up to His crucifixion. That final temptation at His crucifixion was first heard in the wilderness when the devil said “if you are the Son of God” very similar with the words of the bystanders at the foot of the Cross. Most of all, that final temptation at the crucifixion was foreshadowed in the desert when the devil led Jesus to parapet of the temple in Jerusalem, teasing Him to throw Himself down for the angels would surely support Him.
Every time the devil tempts us to sin, his intention is not only for us to sin but for our lives to be destroyed by making us turn away from God signified by jumping from the top of the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus knew this so well that is why from the desert to the Cross, Jesus remained docile to the Father, remained filled with the Holy Spirit by relying on the powers of God than of Himself or of anyone else. And that is always the temptation we also encounter daily: to abandon God, to rely on ourselves and various forms of human powers. Every temptation faced by Jesus was always a temptation to abandon God’s plans, to be ordinary, to remain stuck in the level of the of the world.
The good news is not only that Jesus had overcome every temptation from the devil but most of all, enables us to do so by filling us with the Holy Spirit. Like Moses in the first reading, remember how God saved us in the past. He will never forsake us for as St. Paul reminds us today, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom.10:13). May we be attentive to the Holy Spirit always. Amen.