ST. Mark’s account of Jesus’ journey into the desert (cf. Mk 1:12-15) is significant not only for implying the need to spiritually prepare for 40 days as Jesus did but also for the symbolism in the Holy Spirit’s prompting, “(that) drove him (Jesus) into the desert.” If the desert has been depicted in scriptures as a place where evil reigns then it could be said that the movement of Christ towards it was symbolic of steadfastness to God in the midst of evil. Reminiscent of the words of Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
Similarly, the Season of Lent is based on the ancient church custom of requiring catechumens to undergo a forty-day period of doctrinal instruction and fasting before being baptized on the evening before Easter. This probationary period was called the quarantine (from the Latin word for forty). The number forty occurs frequently in both testaments of the Bible. It signifies the time that is required for discipline, testing, and separation prior to achieving a goal or new beginning. The liturgical season of Lent initiates the most sacred part of the Christian year. During Lent, Christians meditate on the great paschal mystery — the salvation God won for us sinners by the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Like Jesus in the desert, Lent offers us all a very special opportunity to grow in our relationship with God and to deepen our commitment to a way of life, rooted in our baptism. In our busy world, Lent provides us with an opportunity to reflect upon our day-to-day lives, to pray more deeply, experience sorrow for what we’ve done and failed to do, and to be generous to those in need. But more importantly, to allow ourselves to do concrete acts of faith in our social and political lives.
Social and political indifference and passivity is most often our response to the kind of government we have. It has been said that the beauty of our culture is that laughter has become an essential ingredient of our problematic life. However, sometimes we can’t rise above that laughter. Part of our culture is to make a joke out of our government whom we have to live with for the rest of their term. While it is a way of venting our frustrations so we don’t explode, sometimes our satires and jokes remain as they are … “a load laugh.” Finding solutions to our social problem are sometimes caught up in the laughter we fleeting feel at the moment, advancing suggestions are overshadowed by the laughter we momentarily release.
The result … We praise authorities in their presence but gripe at their back, we expect too much from them but hardly voice out what we want; hope for a bright future but throw all the responsibilities to them. One more thing, we are a people who are good at criticizing others but in view of our local and national problems, hardly do we lift a finger to help find remedies to all the social defects and shortcomings we constantly complain about. Somehow, our imperfections are feeding on ourselves. These enables the dodgy politicians we elect to take advantage of the lull we should have actively devoted as electorates during their term in vigilantly assuring that they do the job we elected them to perform.
So, let’s ask ourselves… Should we be sovereign only during elections? Or should we be sovereign all the time? The answer does not lie on a simple blame we throw at the government officials we elect in office but also to ourselves, as this problem feeds on us as well. Genuine suffrage likewise means having the political will to always be “on our toes” in making sure that they be true to the promises they eloquently assured in fulfilling, or face its consequences when they once again seek our votes in the polls.
During the forty days of Lent, let us try to be united with God, whether through a little fasting, a bit more prayer, or effort in showing signs of vigilance towards our government, so that our spiritual preparations during this Blessed Season may also serve as the building blocks for change as we prepare to overcome “the evils in the desert” hampering the way for Clean, Honest, Accurate, Meaningful and Peaceful Elections in 2022.
“Because in life’s journey, as in every journey, what really matters is not to lose sight of the goal. If what interests us as we travel, however, is looking at the scenery or stopping to eat, we will not get far. We should ask ourselves: On the journey of life, do I seek the way forward? Or am I satisfied with living in the moment and thinking only of feeling good, solving some problems and having fun? What is the path? Is it the search for health, which many today say comes first but which eventually passes? Could it be possessions and wellbeing? But we are not in the world for this. Return to me, says the Lord. To me. The Lord is the goal of our journey in this world. The direction must lead to him.” (Pope Francis)
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