Dear brothers and sisters, we began Lent on Wednesday. It is a time of conversion, in other words, a time of life transformation that has its origins in biblical tradition, and the after-effects can also be seen in African traditions.
Lent reflects the 40 days of the Flood, a time for the survivors of the flood to realize the disastrous consequences of human wickedness and recklessness and to turn to God. Lent refers to the 40 years of the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt to the Promised Land, 40 years of challenge and tribulation, but also 40 years of experience of the liberating God of his people with whom he made the covenant on Sinai.
Lent reminds us of the Prophet Eli’s 40 days of pilgrimage to Horeb where he met God. It also reminds us of the length of time given by God to the people of Nineveh to repent, failing which it will be destroyed. It also reminds us of the length of time that Christ appeared to his apostles from his resurrection to his departure to the Father. In Africa, we know the banishment of undisciplined people from society. They have to move away and live as outcasts until they demonstrate a radical change. We also have the moment of seclusion of the initiates which is a time of trials and psychological, spiritual and ethical maturation.
The important event of this time of Lent is indeed the 40 days of our Lord in the desert where he was tempted by the devil. A desert is an arid place where nothing grows, where the sand reflects the heat of the sun. It is a hard place. It was in the Garden of Eden that the first Adam was tempted. It is in the aridity of the desert that Christ will be tempted by the same devil. A desert is a harmful place but also a place wherein solitude one can devote oneself better to prayer, far from noise and distraction.
We are invited in the footsteps of the Fathers of the Desert to go there during this time of Lent to renew ourselves like Christ. However, the true desert is our heart; there we experience the ruggedness of existence, but also the meeting place of God. Christ is led to the desert by the Spirit. Let us allow ourselves to be led throughout Lent by the Spirit into the depths of our hearts. Without him, we will not be able to do so, no matter how much goodwill we have.
Mark tells us about the temptation of Jesus in the desert in the Gospel. He does not give details like the other Synoptic. According to Matthew and Luke, three temptations can be summed up in three things: appetite, ambition and arrogance or having, pleasure and power. They run through our lives, our daily lives. Christ shows us how to escape succumbing to them. Stand firm in the Word of God, for it is the Word of life and not of death. When the devil realizes that we are firmly rooted in God, he will flee and the Holy Spirit will take care of us.
Lent is thus a time when we are invited to dwell in the Word of God, to read it, to meditate on it to put it into practice. If Christ was able to resist the devil, it was because he took root in the Word of God. Lent is a time of conversion, in other words, of the transformation of behavior and mentality, a time of passage from a life unworthy of God to life more worthy of him. It is up to each one of us to examine the degree of his or her distance from God and to formulate his or her return to him or her; “The time limits are fulfilled, the Kingdom of God is here, convert and believe in the Good News.