Lenten sacrifices allow us to listen to God in the silence of the heart
Making sacrifices for others enables us to grow towards a just and loving heart
I n his final Lenten message, Pope Benedict XVI invited reflection on “the love God has for us ” (1 John 4:1 6) and its implications for life’s focus. God loves each one regardless of life style, circumstances, history, status, creed, race or health. God’s love is extended to all. Once a person really believes this, a real personal friendship with God begins.
Lent is situated in the context of Jesus being led by the Holy S pirit into the desert to be tested. At first h e is tempted to be appetite -driven and use his divine power to serve h is bodily needs. The message is clear: if satisfying bodily needs become a priority in life, nothing will be enough and the satisfaction craved for will always be out of reach.
The reflective time in this s eason of Lent, a new s pring, is an opportunity to find the balance so that appetites do not control one but rather are managed . Satisfying personal needs fits best in the context of the effects on others, society and self.
The second temptation centres on position and power. Someone has to be in charge for the good of all to be served. How a position of power is used is the key. When it is used to self-serve, rather than for the good of all, problems arise.
Every sector of society, Catholic Church bodies included, can beat their breasts when it comes to misuse of power and position. Jesus rejected the temptation to make position and power his G od. Later on he proves this on the c ross. In recent weeks we have had the quiet witness of Pope Benedict putting the good of the c hurch before personal position: an example of a just attitude to power.
The third temptation was to get people to follow Jesus by dramatic use of his divine position and to get people’s attention and admiration. Jesus was not going to pull stunts by putting God to the test and taking a shortcut to get followers.
Every miracle of Jesus was initiated by a request made in faith. The faith and belief of people drew out h is healing and acts of extraordinary love. They believed h e was of God and approached h im in this belief. Jesus did not seek attention or public admiration, even though at times the people’s admiration for h im was unbounded . Lest they make h im k ing h e disappeared from their midst.
How to respond to being loved by God, through seeing everyone as sons and daughters of God, gradually becomes clearer through listening to God in the silence of the heart.
It is a life long process that begins for many during Lent. A vision of life emerges from listening to God’s promptings from within. It leads to making sacrifices for the good of others and self: the self-sacrificing mind is so visible in people who would do anything for their family and children.
It is an attitude that is naturally driven from within. It is the mind of love.
That loving mind and heart is the foundation stone of justice. Is also looks outside its own hall door and has an instinctive eye for the person in need. The just mind will say: It is my responsibility, together with others, to reach out. This happens quietly in every community. It is the heartbeat of every charity.
It is sometimes easier to express the just heart for those in foreign lands and those at a distance. When needs are local, closer to home, knowledge of circumstances and tendencies to blame can be obstacles to getting involved.
The just mind moves beyond naming, blaming and shaming. It gradually names what has gone wrong and the remedies; and it claims a role in being part of the remedy and joins forces with likeminded people in taming it.
When someone falls into a deep hole, whether it be fully their own fault or not, the just heart will help pull them out. It has to be done with respect and dignity, with sensitivity and love. That will come from prayerfully listening to God speaking to the heart; and making sacrifices and action. Making sacrifices for others and helping them is a translation for fasting and abstinence.
Bishop Éamonn Walsh is an Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Dublin