Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus

Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus

The readings for the First Sunday of Lent leave us feeling uneasy, somewhat uncomfortable and with troubling questions in our minds. The first and second readings (Genesis 9:8-15 and 1 Peter 3:18-22) mention the global devastation caused by the flood survived solely by Noah and seven others.

However, confronted by havoc, at times, we dare to question the promise made by God himself: …there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth…” (Genesis 9:11).

The second reading also mentions the Risen Lord descending into a mythical underworld prison to inform the disobedient spirits about his victory over all evils and death itself.

The brief gospel passage from Mark (1:12-15) shows us Jesus fasting in the desert for a long time; being tempted by Satan; living among wild beasts; then Jesus leaving the desert to preach repentance and acceptance of the Gospel.

Devastations and calamities, like the flood, are the only part of evil and losses of which we are made aware through the various news media. The rest thrusts us into the unfamiliar, mysterious, and frightening territory of the unknown and the types of evil against which we find no quick remedy. 

Yet, this Lenten Season is designed to help us face and deal with these types of evil in us and around us. In our smallness and powerlessness, we are challenged to contend with evil coming from all sides: from colossal tragedies to anything, however small, which fills us with apprehension and anxiety. 

Thankfully, so far, our faith has led us to God through Jesus our Lord, whenever we faced evil. We have been led to him so that we could find in our Lord a degree of security and comfort. Yet, we sense that there come times in our life and in the life of the world when we do not even see the point of asking some questions because what frightens us does not lead us, quickly, to take refuge in the Lord’s almighty power, infinite love, and perfect justice. Besides, in this awe-inspiring mix of disorder, anguish and evil, we must factor in our personal responsibility though reduced by our human frailty.

So, forgive me for adding to our level of anxiety: looking at younger generations such as millennials we, mature adults, should be aware that they are mostly “disoriented” rather than being instinctively oriented towards the Lord. They have lost the familiar and reassuring concept of belonging to a family which we have. About half of them have no intimate friends or no friends at all. They live disenchanted and with, at best, a vague plan and little hope for the future. Hence, they tend to look for meaning and purpose in the wrong places and, dissatisfied, they lean towards prolonged states of numbness and substance abuse to cope with their high level of inner pain. Thus, I count on all of us, who have personal experience of closeness to the Lord Jesus, who have tasted how good the Lord is, and feel for our brothers and sisters of younger generations, how to deal with both the evils caused by the finitude of nature and those caused by people’s sinful choices.

Although God’s creation is breathtakingly beautiful, it has also ominous aspects totally beyond our control and, in its finiteness, it wears out, breaks down, exhausts itself and, thus, it is bound, from time to time, to wreak incredible havoc. And we cannot overlook the devastating consequences that any sins, ours included, have on all the rest, across the ages, and which do not spare the innocent.

During this Season of Lent and beyond, we should keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, God’s Son in human flesh, as he spends a long time in the desert which our disobedience, our rebellious spirit, our misused freedom have created. By symbolically living among wild beasts, Jesus proves to us that the desert of our making can become, again, the orderly and fruitful garden which God had made for us in the beginning, as described in the book of Genesis. And this is how: by becoming one like us in all things but sin, Jesus has embraced not only our smallness, our powerlessness before tragedies of all sizes, but has also taught us to live surrounded by mysteries that unsettle and frustrate us.

Thus, we shall not remain indifferent to the plight of our brothers and sisters. We shall invite them to join us in imitating Jesus docile to the Holy Spirit, who led him into the desert of devastation caused by natural calamities and, more so, by sinful choices. One with the Lord Jesus, relying of his words of life, sustained by his Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion, bound by sincere solidarity with our disoriented brothers and sisters, we assume the responsibility of doing our share for turning the desert into the new heaven and the new earth envisioned by God. We shall do so until a much higher level of hope can be felt also by the weakest among us and be proven by our sincere intention to be always engaged in concrete acts of love and joyous service to others.

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Written by
Fr Dino Vanin