Facing the Self
1st Sunday of Lent (B); 2-26-12
Gn 9:8-15; Ps 25:4-9; 1 Pt 3:18-22; Mk 1:12-15
Deacon Jim McFadden; Divine Savior C.C.
Lent is about belonging: staying connected to God, each other, and ourselves. The first readings for all the Lenten Sundays in Lectionary Cycle B celebrate our covenant relationship with God. Indeed, we might say that Lent is a season of covenant-making in which we take our true place before God. To do that, we need to remember who we are—to live out of our truest self.
At baptism Jesus came to full consciousness of who he is: the beloved Son of God. Once Jesus has that awareness, the Spirit drives him into the desert—a place of recognition, a place where he faces his Self. In the desert Jesus isamong wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. What happens to Jesus must happen to us. These three verses are the spiritual journey in a nutshell; all the necessary parts of the journey are present: Coming to know oneself, facing the wild beasts and being ministered to by angels.
The starting point of the spiritual journey is to recognize our True Self and to begin the process of living out of that reality. We recognize we are the beloved children of God, we have nothing to prove, nothing to protect. We are who we are. God loves and delights in us.
Once we know who we are, we have to be ready for both the Darkness and the Light. We can’t have one without the other: if we want the ministry of the angels, if we want the consolations of being in covenant relationship with God, we have to risk facing our Shadow. A lot of religion can be preoccupied with repressing the Shadow, by pretending the wild beasts aren’t there—either within our own hearts or in our society, so it massages people, making them feel good and content, but not challenging them to grow by doing what Jesus did by being with BOTH the wild beasts and angels.
I believe that it is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation that we experience being “among wild beasts and being ministered by angels.” Sometimes, we fall into the trap that the sacrament is about obliteration and not reconciliation. We seem to think that when we go to Confession, sin goes away. It doesn’t. What God does do is take away the sin’s power to destroy us and for us to hurt other people. For our part, reconciliation means we are coming to terms with our sin. We acknowledge, name, face, accept, and befriend our Shadow, our wild beasts. That is the power of the sacrament and the mystery of the forgiveness of sin, which allows us to forgive our Shadow, our own wild beasts, and in then to experience depths of grace within us, which we never imagined were possible.
The covenant with Noah seems to imply that forgiveness is at the very heart of salvation. God knows that our struggle to stay in the Light is ongoing; he knows we will sin again, but there is no reason for us to despair or give up. We have been saved through Jesus. We know how our story is going to end. Now it is up to us to live our lives out of that reality and conviction.
Brothers and sisters, I encourage you this Lent to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is the Sacrament of naming our sin/Shadow and coming to terms with it. In the sacrament we reconnect ourselves with God; we say “yes” to the covenant he desires to have with us. We embrace the God who loves and delights in us.