Through our observance of Lent, help us to understand the meaning of your Son’s death and resurrection, and teach us to reflect it in our lives. This is the opening prayer to our Mass. This is what the Church is asking us to pray for. This is why we are here!
What do we mean by observance of Lent? The dictionary says it is “The act or practice of observing or complying with a law, custom, command, or rule.” In other words, it is what we do, not simply what we think. We enter into Lent in how we act. So our prayer presumes that we are acting at this time and we ask Our Lord to aid us now through our actions, whatever they are.
We pray that through our actions the Lord will aid us in our understanding and very specifically in our understanding of Jesus’ death and resurrection. This point is crucial. We seek to deepen our awareness, and ultimately, our appreciation of not simply the events that unfolded 2,000 thousand years ago but what it meant then and, for us today, what it means now. We seek to see our place within the economy of salvation. Though we are little less than Gods, our understanding is centred in Time and Space. This is why literally walking the way of the cross is so helpful at this time of year. We can relive and know better the Son’s death and resurrection through our actions, through our observance.
We all of us have tough choices to make. We all of us feel a certain resonance with Christ in the desert. We all us are tempted. Our model of virtue is, not surprisingly, Jesus. Oscar Wilde famously wrote, in Lady Windermere’s Fan, “I can resist anything but temptation.” A good drama, I’ll give you, but as a sound-bite for life, what utter drivel. Of course we can resist temptation! The inspiring English poet, Robert Browning, wrote: Why comes temptation, but for man to meet and master and crouch beneath his foot, and so be pedestaled in triumph? Jesus, resisting temptation in the desert, still had to endure the cross and so be raised from the dead. We may resist temptation, yet still we face a difficult path but, nonetheless, would you rather be like Jesus, or would you prefer Oscar Wilde as your role model?
But we digress. Our prayer, our opening prayer, asks that the Lord teach us to reflect in our lives the Son’s death and resurrection and its meaning. So we pray the Lord to place upon our lives the framework of the cross. As the deacon said “A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke” we made the sign of the cross on our forehead, on our lips and on our heart. Perhaps we even thought: Lord, be on my mind, on my lips and in my heart. The cross is so central to whom we are and it is through the cross that our lives have meaning; it is how we reflect the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. As we genuflect before each of the station we say together: Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world.
We’re now four days into our annual time in the desert or 10% for those who like statistics. With 36 to go it may seem like there’s plenty of time but really there isn’t. Ask the Lord to help you through your observance, don’t be surprised when you get a taste of the cross and listen carefully as he reveals himself in all His mystery!