Novena to our Lady of Perpetual Help (14 Feb 2016)
Ecclesiastes 3:1,8. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven, a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”
There is indeed a time for everything and it’s important to know when that time is. During these first days of Lent, we realise that we’re in a time of transition. And as with all times of transition, things can be a little difficult. We experience difficulty when the seasons change or when the weather turns and many of us catch colds during this time. That’s our body telling us that we’re moving into a different phase of the year.
Spiritually, the same happens too. We transition into the time of Lent and during this first week, things aren’t going to be smooth sailing. Our Lenten observances may not be easy and we might not gain the spiritual benefits from them so quickly. I know I often dream of food while I fast and pray during the days where I choose to fast during Lent. Therefore, sometimes we need some time and patience in order for us to transition well and not get sick or fall off the wagon quickly.
Time and patience are key to a good transition. We see this in all the accounts of our Blessed Mother as her patience and pondering stance are ever present. Why is this important? Changes don’t happen overnight. We often want things to happen quickly but that doesn’t happen in reality, especially with the spiritual life and with God. Mary pondered things in her heart for many years and only received her answers after much suffering and tribulation. We need to do the same and allow things to happen, to give God time to work with us. After all, it’s God’s will that we want, not ours.
Transition can be difficult and sometimes we’re tempted to run away from difficulty. The example of the Lord in this weekend’s Gospels show us how to do the opposite. The difficulties of his transition to his time in the wilderness are there – he faced temptation and distraction. The devil was there to see if he would stray from the course. The Lord’s response? To call on God’s help through scripture and then to face the tempter head on. He did not shy away from dealing with the temptations and just named them and went past them. By talking directly to the devil and meeting these challenges head on, the Lord shows us how to counter our temptations and distractions.
Our own Lenten discipline and observances can be equally difficult. We will encounter distractions, naysayers and all sorts of things that could bring us away from our ultimate goal of Lent – a deepening relationship with the Lord and a peek into the mystery of the cross. How do we get over these? To act against these distractions and to go directly against this. Jesuits often refer to this as agere contra or ‘acting against’ which means to do something to go directly against temptation. If we’re tempted to shorten our prayer time, we add some time to it so that we stay the course.
By recognising the difficulty in transition we learn to act patiently and actively to make the most of Lent. We are patient with ourselves and are active against the temptations and distractions. This will allow us to deepen our understanding of the mystery of Christ and how it makes Lent truly real for us.