Jas 4:1-10; Ps 55:7-11,23; Mk 9:30-37
With today’s psalm we find ourselves waiting for a Savior. We wait for the One who saves us from the violent storm and the tempest. Our Savior comes to lodge with us in the wilderness. Into the wilderness of Lent the Lord Jesus leads us. Through Him, with Him and in Him we fly away and find rest in the place where demons dwell and our faith is tested beyond all measure. With the wings of a dove we fly to the place to which we dare not walk, the valley of darkness, and we fear no evil because Our Savior is with us. It is the Lord who engulfs the storm and the tempest; so that counsels of the wicked may be divided and rendered powerless. Even in the city, in the place of high culture and developed civilization we find only violence and strife; there in the day and the night we find demons prowling about on the city walls. Why not prowl? Why not prevent union with Christ? The tempter wants us to face our demons alone. The evil one tries to keep us far away from Christ so that this lent, and our whole lives, becomes just another waste of time. During this lent may we learn how to wait upon the Lord. Then and only then will the instruction of Saint James be heard in our ears and echo in our hearts: “Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.” Until we become like the little child in the Gospel that the Lord Jesus held before his disciples, we will not enter into Lent, or Easter, or the Glory.
Humble and beloved are those to whom Saint James writes. He writes to us as we face another Lent. This apostolic writer asks questions we would rather not hear. Basically we are being asked the questions so often aimed at us by the so-called new atheists: why is their still sin in our lives? Why does evil and vice still prevail in human hearts and in human community? Why after all these years of grace and mercy? Why after all these years of gospel preaching and gospel living? Perhaps we do not receive because we still ask wrongly. Perhaps our petition are still about ourselves and our agenda. Perhaps we mean my kingdom every time we pray, “thy kingdom come.” Then Saint James gets down to the most painful evaluation, perhaps we are still caught up in the adultery of idolatry. Do we not know that to be a lover of the world means being an enemy of God? The spirit that dwells in us tends toward jealousy, and this evil spirit must be exorcised from our hearts. The grace of God in Christ is greater than any power or evil motivation that has invaded our deepest self. Until we submit ourselves in humility, and admit that without the grace of Christ we cannot resist the devil. The promise of the Holy Spirit is that when we resist the devil he will flee from us. The evil one does not understand humility. The evil one has no power in the face of true humility. If we are humble then we live in the truth of the Gospel that we are sinners and unworthy servants who need to pray again and again at every Mass: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” It is the Lord Jesus who draws near to us. It is the Lord Jesus who cleanses our hands and our hearts so that we can be of one mind. So we enter Lent with weeping, mourning, and lamentation. Our laughter at sin is turned into mourning and our true joy is found in the cross of Christ. In this Lenten journey we live in true humility and the Joy of Lent is the exaltation of a Holy Easter.
The Lord Jesus and his disciples leave on a journey through Galilee in Saint Mark’s gospel, but this is a secret journey because the Lord wanted to teach his disciples about the mystery of the cross, a mystery we continue to learn each and every Lent. The Lord Jesus predicts his passion: “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” The disciples did not understand, and they were afraid to question him. We still don’t understand such self-sacrifice, and still we are afraid that following him on this journey that may involve our own self-sacrifice. As contemporary disciples we waste so much time discussing among ourselves the one who is the greatest. Such discussions are useless because they are self-centered. They reveal that we still buy into the world’s way of measuring greatness. Greatness does not set up a prideful struggle among disciples indeed the only competition we are allowed to have is to strive to outdo one another in self-sacrificial service. Not counting the cost, and not looking for the reward of our generosity. If we have such a humble self-awareness we will be like a child who has received every thing, from the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have received the Lord Jesus, and we received the One who sent Him. In the midst of that mystery we discover the mystery of our own identity—we are children who absolutely depend upon God to enter into the mystery of the Cross and share in the glory of the Lent and of the Resurrection.