Picture: cc Hafiz Issadeen
My dear friends, have you ever gone for an X-ray or a scan of some kind? As you know, scans uncover things that would otherwise remain hidden. And we use them not just out of curiosity. Scans play an important role both in diagnosis and prescription. Not only do they reveal hidden things, they also suggest the actions needed to address them.
Revealing hidden things in order to prompt needed action. This is also what our readings do for us today. Although, at first glance, the flood in the first reading may seem like nothing more than a punishment sent by God, it also functions as a spiritual scan. For before being swept away physically, by the raging waters of the flood, sinful humanity was already drowning spiritually, in its own violence and cruelty. The physical event uncovers the spiritual reality.
But the flood doesn’t just reveal the deadly consequences of sin, it also indicates a way out. We see this especially in the Covenant that God makes, not just with Noah, but with every living creature… for all generations. What this reveals to us is God’s desire not to destroy the wicked, but for the wicked to turn back and live (see Ez 33:11). Repentance wins salvation.
Which is also the Good News that Jesus proclaims in the gospel. But first the Lord allows himself to be driven by the Spirit into the wilderness. Like the waters of the flood, the wilderness also functions like a scan. It reveals the otherwise hidden spiritual experiences of the Lord. Much as, in his public ministry, Jesus displays mastery over diseases and demons alike, what the wilderness shows us is that this mastery comes through a constant struggle against Satan. A struggle that the Lord always wins, because he draws power from the One who sends angels to look after him.
And the second reading reminds us of the full extent of Christ’s victorious struggle. In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life… Here is revealed the deeper significance of his Dying and Rising, into which we have all been baptised. If only we keep struggling in the Lord, we too will enjoy the benefits of the Covenant. We too will find life.
Revealing hidden things in order to prompt needed action. This is really what the season of Lent is all about. More than just a time for giving up desserts, Lent is meant to function like a scan. It reveals hidden things to prompt needed action. Consider the opening prayer we offered earlier. We asked that through the yearly observances of holy Lent… we may grow in understanding of the riches hidden in Christ (revelation) and by worthy conduct (action) pursue their effects…
Perhaps this is the deeper reason why some Catholics feel as if 2020 was a year-long experience of Lent. Not just because it was so difficult and trying, but also because it reveals to us hidden things about ourselves and our world. Indicating to us what we need to do to repent and to find fullness of life.
Sisters and brothers, if Lent is truly a spiritual scan, then what must we do to better submit to its consoling discipline today?