Lent is here. It begins with our Lord Jesus Christ submitting himself under the prophetic call to repentance from his cousin, John, the Baptist, and allowing himself to be submerged in the water of the Jordan river for the ritual baptism, a commitment to convert and render his life to God.
We see the heavens opening up, the Holy Spirit descending upon him in the form of a dove; and we hear the gentle voice of God, the Father, declaring: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
God the Father loves Jesus and declares to all creation of His love for His only-begotten Son. In so doing God the Father also declares His love for you. God loves you and He loves you first; that’s why He sent Jesus to you. So “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Love is the motif and the motivation for all that Jesus does for us. He loves God, the Father, and thus enters into this world to live, suffer and die for us. He reveals to us not only through His stories and examples, but also by His life and death, the love of God the Father reserved for us from all eternity.
The very first act of love Jesus wants to show us is fasting. He enters into the desert with the Holy Spirit for forty days and forty nights to confront His own human weaknesses and the Devil. He endures hunger and thirst, the lonely life in the howling desert and the assaults of the Devil. He fasts, He prays and He trusts in the Word of His Father. This is to show us how to repent and render to God what belongs to Him.
Following Jesus’ footsteps we are called to embark in this pilgrimage of forty days of Lent. With Jesus we listen to the loving voice of God, the Father; we do penance and deny ourselves. The following meditations are 40 straight-forward acts of repentance to help you look back and re-examine your own life with Jesus.
Let us take this pilgrimage of repentance to pray for our Catholic Church, especially for our priests.
O Mary, Queen of the Apostles: Walk with us on this pilgrimage.
Let us pray.
Grant us, O Lord, to begin our Christian warfare with holy fasts; that as we are about to do battle with the spirits of evil we may be defended by the aid of self-denial and the protecting gaze of our Blessed Virgin Mother Mary. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The day is getting longer and the night, darker and colder. You ask yourself, “What ‘the…’ am I doing in the middle of the desert starving myself to death? Why do I put myself into this ‘…’? Hunger and thirst keep gnawing at my body fat, the desert sands and sun have been sucking out water from my body, the wild beasts are prowling around me and the Devil himself would not leave me alone. What am I doing here?” You ask yourself again, “Why am I here?”
Then you realize whether or not you plunge off from the Temple’s top as the Devil tells you, you will die anyway. That’s the reality. The desert is killing you; and you put yourself in it. There must be a purpose.
Only 12 days ago, God, the heavenly Father, opens up the heavens and declares publicly to your cousin, John, and everyone present at the riverbank: “You are My Beloved Son.” He then pours down upon you the full force of His Holy Spirit and He fills you up. But His Spirit does something bizarre: He pushes you into this God-forsaken wasteland. “What do you want from me, Lord God, My Heavenly Father?” you cry out, “Do you want me to die out here?”
You struggle to seek the will of God, Your Father. But then you remember what the Devil does when he tests you. He has the audacity to mock you by chanting the Mizmor צא–Psalm 91 to incite you to kill yourself! But that reminds you of what the Lord God said in Mizmor צ –Psalm 90. So in spite of your hunger and thirst, you lift up your voice and chant the 90th melody of praise (i.e., the Mizmor in Hebrew or the Psalm):
…Our life ebbs away under your wrath;
our years end like a sigh.
Seventy is the sum of our years,
or eighty, if we are strong;
most of them are toil and sorrow;
they pass quickly, and we are gone.
Who comprehends the strength of your anger?
Your wrath matches the fear it inspires.
Teach us to count our days aright,
that we may gain wisdom of the heart… (Psalm 90:9-12).
So you pray. You meditate on every word of the 90th melody of praise. You chant it again and again until its meaning reveals itself to you. It’s telling you that if you fear God, worship Him and serve Him alone, your life may extend into your seventies or eighties. That means you may have about 50 more years to live. But then the Holy Spirit interrupts your train of thought. “No,” He says, “it won’t be 50, but three.” “What!” you react, “Three years to live?” “Indeed,” the Spirit says, “Three more years to live counting from now. But whether you live up to 30 or 33 or 70 or 80 years, they all count as a breath. In fact, your years will “end like a sigh” (v. 9) and a sigh is not even a full breath; it’s an exhale of the air just as you breathe your last. That’s the sum of your life.”
Your whole life is only an exhale of the last breath. That’s how you will finish your life. Even though you may not have food or water, you still have your breath. You also have the Breath of God – Ruah Adonai, the Holy Spirit with you. He’s dwelling in you. He has been conserving the water and temperature in your body. He is the One Who keeps your mind sane and your spirit calm. There must be a purpose.
You take a deep breath and realize that you are alive. As long as you can breathe, you know the Holy Spirit remains in you. You thank God, Your Father, for being present to you every time you take a breath. You also realize that the sum of all your life lies within this one little breath. You ask yourself: “For whom do I want to spend my last breath? To whom shall I give up my Spirit?”
In spite of whatever comes at you, whether the heat or the cold, the wind or the rain, the sands or the sun, the hunger or the thirst, the wild beasts or the Devil, nothing matters now. All you know is that God the Father loves you, you know it because you can feel the breathing of the Holy Spirit within you. So you take a gulp of breath and chant:
- “Father, I am Your Beloved Son; and You are My Beloved Father.”
Take a deep breath and say with Jesus, “Father, You love me.” Then exhale…., say, “I love You, Father.” Practice this continuously and you will feel the Love of God, the Father.
Let us pray for priests to feel the Love of God, the Father, when they praise the Psalms.
O Mary, Queen of the Apostles: Make your priests feel the love God the Father as they praise the Psalms.