From Most Rev. Rupeto C. Santos, DD
Lenten and Easter Reflections 2011
Lent is forty days before Easter. Lent is our spiritual pilgrimage from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. It is our journey to the Father with our goal to be with Him in heaven. This spiritual journey is our walking the way of Jesus. He is our ‘way’ (John 14,6). He is our guide and our ‘gate’ (John 10, 9).
Lent is to recall the wandering years of Moses with the Chosen people in the desert on their way to the promised land, ‘a land of flowing with milk and honey’ (Exodus 3,8). The Book of Exodus narrates that ‘Moses entered the cloud and went up the mountain. Moses stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights’ (24,18). From the first book of the Kings, prophet Elijah ‘traveled for forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God’ (19,8). Prophet Isaiah was tasked to preach and urged people to repentance, ‘proclaiming forty days more and Nineveh will be destroyed’ (3,4).
Lent is to live what Jesus did in the desert where He ‘was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry’ (Matthew 4, 1ff). Lent is teaching us that in earthly pilgrimage there would be temptations and trials. And in those temptations and trials we have to look up and learn from Jesus. What are those temptations? And what Jesus did to overcome those temptations?
First, there is always the temptation to rely solely on what the world could give. ‘Turn this stone to bread’ (Matthew 4, 3) is a temptation to satisfy one’s need of material comfort and with worldly pleasures. It is a temptation to look for the easy way, for what is more enjoyable, for what is more wonderful. There is the temptation to impress people and to bribe people in order to get their attention, their sympathy, or their obedience. The answer of Jesus is from the book of Deuteronomy. He said, ‘a man will never find life in material things’ (8,3). Let us remember then that what the world would offer would never last. They are all temporary. They are all passing. Jesus insists on a trustful waiting of God’s help and assistance. God sustains us permanently. God provides us with what is the best for us. God always attends to our needs. Jesus wants us to trust God’s providential care. Isn’t the most fundamental nourishment of man found in the word of God? Jesus affirms that ‘one does not live by bread alone but be every word that comes forth from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4,4).
Second, there is the temptation to get rid of the cross and avoid sacrifices. There is the temptation to be spectacular, to be sensational, to be more than who we are. So it is temptation to force God. There is a senseless demand from us to make God perform extraordinary miracles, to provide proofs and sings. The devil says to Jesus, ‘he will command his angels concerning you, and with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone’ (Matthew 4,6). But the response of Jesus is His solid faith and trust to God. He answers, ‘you shall not put the Lord your God to the test’ (Matthew 4, 7). Here, Jesus imparts to us that His trust is translated to a reverential obedience to the Father. Jesus accepts the cross. He submits Himself to God’s will.
Third, there is the temptation to be powerful and to use it for personal advantage. It is a temptation to be above the law, to forget the law, or to compromise the law. But here, Jesus insists that evil cannot be defeated by compromising with evil. For Jesus, there should never be a compromise with evil. Jesus points out here that God should never be put aside. We should always rely on God. We are responsible and accountable before God alone. And so Jesus replies, ‘the Lord, your God shall you worship and him alone you shall serve’ (Matthew 4, 10).
Lent shows us the way of Jesus. Lent is learning from Jesus. It is to live like Him. What is to learn from Him? First, is to be in solidarity with the Holy Spirit. Like Jesus we must let ourselves be led by the Holy Spirit. The gospel of Saint Mark tells us that the, ‘Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days’ (Mark 1,12). We must always call on the help of the Holy Spirit. We must beg the guidance and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Much more we must as what Saint Paul implores, ‘not walking in the way of the flesh, but in the way of the Spirit’ (Romans 8, 4).
Second, is Jesus Himself. Lent is our spiritual preparation for the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Lent is to observe and relive what Jesus did, that is, His self-emptying. Jesus denies Himself of the craving for material sustenance. He sets aside the needs of human flesh and comforts. He negates worldly pleasures. He fulfills not His will, but God’s will. He submits not to His ways, but to God’s works. He obeys not what He wants, but what god desires for man. Lent is to relive what Jesus lived, that is, a life of constant communion with God. Jesus spends time with and for God. He always communicates with God in prayers. He opens and offers Himself to God. Lent is what Saint Paul tells us, ‘to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus’ (Hebrews 12, 2). And so we must always look up to Jesus. We must always turn to Him. We must live only for Him and with Him. And for us Jesus is our help and healer, our shepherd and savior.
Lenten season reminds us that in every temptation or trial or even troubles we must always remember what Jesus did in the desert. In spite of any hardship or difficulty, we should be like Jesus who always stands on the side of God. Whatever and wherever we must be always for God. In every decision and action, we have to make God first and foremost in our lives. In every judgment and resolution, we must always depend on God, rely on God, and go to God first.
Part 2 here