The first reading gave an account of the anointing of
David as the king of Israel. David was chosen by God not
for his outward appearance but for his heart and the
Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from the day
of his anointing. We see God’s wisdom in electing one
who lived in the light, humble and obedient to Him. The
second reading is a reminder to us to live as children of
the light which was contrasted with living in darkness.
The difference between the two is seen through the fruit
borne – whether it is good and right and true. The light of
Christ will shine on those who do what is holy. The gospel
reading also emphasizes the light through the healing of
the man who was born blind. The miraculous cure
identified Jesus as the Divine Light and resulted in a division between those who
saw the truth and those who rejected the truth. Unless one realizes the extent of his
blindness, there is no hope of seeing the light. Let us therefore ask Jesus to open
our eyes that we may see and live as children of the light.
Two years ago, I made a silent retreat which was also a discernment retreat with the Capuchin Friars in Malaysia which lasted for three days. Throughout this period my spiritual eyes were opened whilst discerning if God was calling me to the priesthood or to another vocation.
Within the retreat itself there were aspects that were extremely pertinent to the season of Lent which I would come to in a short while, but first let’s go back to where we began throughout the three days. There wasn’t much to do on the first day as it was spent mostly spontaneously planning out the next two days. The friars had invited us to Midday prayer followed by lunch and then the first of a series of talks on discernment.
As the retreat proceeded to the second day, the friars gave us a tour of the friary and refectory. I was asked to help the seminarians out in their manual labor. We were weeding the garden and sweeping up leaves. Later on that afternoon, the postulants and their brother friars who were also priests brought their pet dogs out for a walk in the afternoon, the dogs were mostly feral but they had been spayed and neutered.
We passed a cemetery that wasn’t Christian on the outskirts of the friary and while the pets of the friars were frolicking with each other and the friars and seminarians were conversing among themselves, I began to realize that at the end of our lives, the grave exemplified the fact that we are mere dust and ash as our souls go back to God and our corporeal bodies become food for the daffodils.
“For dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19)
These words uttered by God to Adam in the garden by the Church to every Christian at the beginning of the Lenten season on Ash Wednesday. Dust, the ashes imposed on our foreheads by the priest, has no substance; the lightest breath would disperse it, Ashes are a veritable symbol and reminder of our nothingness. Everything in us is nothing. Our lives are drawn from the creative power of God, by His infinite love which willed to communicate His being and His life to us. Our pride and arrogance has blinded us to grasp this veritable truth.
Lent is a time to enter into the desert with Christ as our master and we his humble apprentices. It is also a time of dying in a sense that we must let go of something and get a good hold on God. Lent is also a time to divest ourselves from our own diversions. We need to sacrifice the superficial so that the depth may rise and in stilling the chatters around us in the desert God’s voice would then begin to resonate within.
It is painful and bitter indeed to suffer death but unless we crucify our passions, egos and other things, we can never truly experience the joy at Easter when Christ broke the prison bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld.