by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
March 3, 2004
A MEDITATION ON THE GIFT OF LENT
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Normally, when I write anything spiritual, I unleash some latent poetic talents and express myself privately, or perhaps in an article designed for religious publications.
Today, however, with the name of Jesus being spoken all over the airwaves, in the popular cinema, in newspapers and magazines around the world, I'm comfortable offering some personal insights of my own using my weekly column in the secular press as my platform.
I haven't seen the Mel Gibson movie that has not only the theaters filled to capacity but churches as well. I'm not the first person this week to suggest "God moves in mysterious ways His wonders to perform."
For a good part of this country, people will define Ash Wednesday as the day "The Passion of the Christ" opened at theaters near me, advance purchasing recommended. For me, it was wondering if ashes would be part of a Mass or distributed continuously during the day, since each parish prepares its own schedule according to the needs of the congregation.
The season of Lent has been on Christian calendars since the Fifth Century with fasting and other forms of self-denial a part of drawing yourself closer to the suffering Christ. Why 40 days? According to the Good Book, Jesus was reliving the 40 years his ancestors wandered in the desert being tried and tested; it wasn't easy. He was tried and tested by Satan, whom He banished with a strong "Get out of here."
So, during Lent, we not only deny ourselves some small pleasure as a sacrifice - something like chocolate or other treats it just might serve us well to give up, anyway - but we meditate on how Jesus handled his temptations in the desert.
Today, we're so far removed from the garb of that day, the sandals and robes. Trying to identify with the disciples around him in that time frame suggests how little we know about the day-to-day life of Christ. In praying, I failed to find the intimacy I felt was needed.
But I tried. I really did. My mind wandered. I tried both private and formal prayers, saying them by rote. I tried to escape the thoughts I harbored as a child: "How could Jesus die for me? I wasn't even born yet." I'm now sophisticated enough to understand how, indeed, He died for me.
Meditation is another hurdle I'm working on, having dozed off during most attempts. I associate mediation with mantras and om padme om, ohm. I can stay on my knees, I can recite rosaries, trying my best to focus, focus, focus on the Mysteries, but it comes from my mouth, not from the depth of my being.
I understand, through televised scenes of sorrowing moviegoers leaving theaters, that I'm in for one important and graphically-rendered detail: exactly the extent to which Jesus went in fulfilling the word of the prophets.
It appears that when we need it most, an answer will come to us. I read the line, "Jesus was led by the spirit" into the desert. So that's what must be done. We must wait for the Holy Spirit to lead us to the desires of our heart.
In no time at all, He did just that. My desire was to be able to function in some quiet place where I could focus on God, His blessings, His promises, His demands, His forgiveness and His trust. Also, what did He want of me? How should I fast in an effort to please Him? Is following His admonition, "Do this in memory of me," enough?
What took place, to my surprise, was that my reflections turned inward. I discovered all He ever asked of me is that I love Him. "Thou shalt love the Lord with thy whole heart." And I do. It should come as no surprise that all good things have come to me.
The "things" I'm talking about are not creature-comfort things, although I have those, too. What I have are beliefs. I truly believe in the old saw that claims, "God fits the burden to the back." If God thinks I can handle something, anything, well then, I can.
Had I the ability to look ahead at the future - now my past - I wouldn't have believed it possible to survive what's transpired between now and then. I don't have any idea what I ever did to deserve such blessings. I'm not exactly on top of the world, but I'm sitting pretty enough. Who could ask for more?
Do you suppose it's just my dumb luck? Do I think it's a coincidence that my prayers get answered? I doubt it. All this time, I've found it difficult getting to God. I was praying but seemingly pushing against some tide holding me back.
Then, when I was led to a quiet place and felt enlightened, I realized I had been going against him on a one-way street. I was in a quiet place but I was babbling in prayer instead of being quiet enough for the word of God to reach me. Now, that was dumb.