Dear friends at St. Jude,
Many a time we are saturated with self-centered pursuits that we are so distanced from God and others. The bubble of ego needs to be popped so that we are no longer confined to a self-imposed prison of egomania.
In our city of politics, we have huge egos. Having an ego is different from finding the true self. Egomania is an obsessive preoccupation with one's self, following one's own ungoverned impulses. On the other hand, finding one's true self is a goal of authentic spirituality. Thomas Merton is known for this pursuit. Following are his words worth our serious consideration: "Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self… My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God's will and God's love- outside of reality and outside of life. And such a self cannot help but be an illusion… To be a saint means to be my true self. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I truly am and of discovering my true self, my essence or core" (from his New Seeds of Contemplation).
Such is the grace of this Lenten season we are entering into. The traditional Lenten practice includes prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We respond to the dialogue of salvation that God initiates with us by careful adhering to his Word. By being deprived of food, we discover that we are not all-powerful. We realize that we are often slaves to our bellies, to the opinions of others, to pleasure. We also consciously abstain from violence, injustice, vengeful thoughts, hatred and bigotry. We are in touch with our inner hunger for the bread from heaven. In deprivation, we feel the pain of starvation that so many people undergo every day. In almsgiving we recognize that all our possessions are ultimately for common good. Hence sharing our blessings with the needy is simply a duty.
During Lent, we have the opportunity to hear voices that are usually lost in the din of pleasure and meaningless talk. We can enter into a private desert even in the midst of the world and face our own demons. If we are brave, we can run through this desert trying to find the real God amid the gods.
Jesus breaks the vicious cycle of temptation and sin by rejecting the opportunity to be the wrong kind of messiah and by overcoming evil with good. We are invited to go out to the desert to be with Jesus who was tempted and tested but did not sin. United with him, we overcome self-absorption and learn to practice mercy. With him we celebrate the victory of good over evil, hope over dread, and life over death.
The season of Lent, therefore, is truly springtime for sinners.
Yours truly in Christ,
Fr. Paul D. Lee