06 FOOTPRINTS of the Lenten Journey - Fr Kieran O'Mahony

posted Feb 16, 2018, 12:55 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 16, 2018, 12:56 AM ]
Lent does not have the impact it used to have. To deepen our Lenten experience, we need to retrace the footprints of Christ as He walked His journey to the Easter Glory. The gospel for the first Sunday of Lent is always about the desert and temptation of Jesus. Mark's account of the Temptation is the shortest by far. There is no dialogue between Jesus and Satan, and the details of the temptations are not spelled out in any way. Instead, we have enigmatic statements about Jesus in the desert, with the wild beasts and angels ministering to Him.

Readings from Genesis and St Paul give us a perspective of looking at life as a struggle between sin and grace, selfishness and holiness. Our time on earth will be successful in the measure that we put aside sin, and try to live by the grace of God. There are two contrasting reactions to temptation. The first humans, Adam and Eve, are imagined as preferring their own inclinations to the will of God. Jesus, the Saviour, on the contrary, resisted temptation, remaining faithful to what God the Father required of Him. St Paul reflects on how these choices affect ourselves: Adam's sin brought trouble on all, but we are saved and offered new life, because of the fidelity of Christ.

People undertake a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to follow in the footsteps of Christ—a visit to Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem; climb the Mount of the Beatitudes and swim in the Sea of Galilee. Walk from Jerusalem to Jericho, look into Jacob's Well at Nablus, and stand on the place in Cana where Jesus changed the water into wine. And in Jerusalem, even kneel at the place where He was crucified. If they read the appropriate passage, they have a moving experience all the way up to the sepulchre. But the strongest impression is of the desert where Christ spent forty days before starting His public life.

It is not surprising that the three great world religions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—were all born in the desert. It was through the desert that Moses led the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land. It was from that desert that John the Baptist came to herald the Messiah, and soon after, Jesus followed to proclaim Himself Messiah. A visit to the Holy Land will make one realise the significance of the desert. The desert is a purgatory man must pass through to reach paradise. What is impressive about the desert is its sheer aridness. There is no vegetation, no bird life, and apart from the odd tiny lizard, almost no animals.