A reflection by Fr. David Warren, SFM, on the Second Sunday of Lent: Genesis 15.5-12, 17-18; Philippians 3.17-4: 1; Luke 9.28-36
“Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” With these words in our ears and with ashes on our foreheads, we began the season of Lent. These words are not a threat; they are an invitation to come home to ourselves—to our true selves.
The gospel last weekend was about our false self. The story of the temptations of Jesus is the story of the self that is deluded by the desire to be self-sufficient, by the desire to impress other people, and by the desire to dominate other people. The gospel this weekend is about our true self.
“Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white” (Luke 9:28-29).
The disciples saw the true self of Jesus. They saw his inner glory.
The glory of God dwells in Jesus. But it doesn’t just dwell in Jesus. It dwells in all of us. The glory of God is our true self and it’s trying to come out. “The glory of God is the human person fully alive,” wrote St. Irenaeus. We are all looking for the experience of being fully alive. Underneath everything we do is the desire to feel fully alive.
But what does it mean to be fully alive? The world offers a variety of answers to that question. Some of these answers lead us right back to the temptations of Jesus in last Sunday’s gospel. In today’s gospel, God tells us to listen to Jesus who will show us the way to be fully alive.
“God tells us to listen to Jesus who will show us the way to be fully alive.”
It’s never been easy to listen to Jesus. And it’s harder today than ever before. It’s not that the words of Jesus are more challenging today. It’s that we have less attention to give to Jesus than we had in the past. We have less attention to give to Jesus because our attention is somewhere else. We are bombarded with more and more demands for our attention. Every advertisement is a demand for our attention—and that means every billboard and every sign and every pop-up on the Internet. There are advertisements on the bus – inside the bus, on the outside of the bus, and sometimes even covering the entire bus. There are even advertisements on the risers of the stairs in the subway station. Every radio and television commercial is a demand for our attention. Every email, every call on our cellphone or smartphone or tablet, is a demand for our attention. There was a time when we left the phone and the computer at home but now we carry them with us wherever we go.
The effect of all of these demands on our attention is that we are living in a state of mind that the American writer Linda Stone has called “continuous partial attention.” We give everything our partial attention; we give nothing our full atten
“This is my Son, my Chosen. Listen to Him!” (Luke 9:35).
How are we to listen to Jesus in an age of mass distraction? The only way to listen to Jesus in an age of mass distraction is to fast. I don’t mean fast from food. I mean fast from the unnecessary demands on our attention. That includes fasting from our electronic devices.
Fasting, whether from food, from electronics, or from something else, teaches us wisdom. We learn the difference between what we think we need and what we actually need.
Lent is not about giving up the things we want; Lent is about giving up the things we don’t want—things like the constant demands for our attention and things like “continuous partial attention.” Lent is about giving up the things we don’t want in exchange for the things we want, such as giving more attention to Jesus.
“Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” These words are not a threat; they are an invitation to come home to ourselves. They are an invitation to come home to Jesus.