Repent, and believe in the Gospel. – Mk 1:15  

The season of Lent is an invitation to slow down, pray, sacrifice, offer-up and repent. It is also a time of renewal; a turning away from that which darkens the heart to that which illuminates it. The path that leads to Easter shimmers with signs of promise, lessons of hope and glimpses of the divine.  

A series of covenants 

More than a contract, a covenant is a bond between parties having conditions and obligations, pledging something for the other. The Liturgy of the Word for both the First and Second Sundays in Lent begin with covenants: one to Noah, the other to Abraham. The first divine promise from God is to never engulf the earth with water, as Noah and his family promise to remain faithful and true to God. God sets his bow in the sky as a visible sign of this covenant with mankind and all creation. Years later, Abraham is tested to determine whether he has genuine faith in God. Proven as such, God promises Abraham abundantly with countless descendants because he completely obeyed God. 

A new covenant 

Yet, the people had difficulty with their side of the obligation. Thus through the prophets, God announces the coming of a Messiah who will fulfill all covenants and establish a new one. God sends his Son. By the Holy Spirit, he sanctifies the living waters of baptism to offer rebirth and offers himself on the wood of the cross to give new life. Why? St. Peter writes, “Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God.” </span id=”8″>

Am I a covenant person? Have I remained faithful to the promises of my baptism? Have I rejected sinful thoughts or actions which cause me to turn away from God? If so, have I made a commitment to repent and become embraced by God’s mercy in the sacrament of reconciliation? </span id=”9″>

God walks with us  

God accompanies the faithful on this Lenten journey. He is an intimate father who cares deeply for us, personally and collectively. He is not a distant, unapproachable entity, but rather is up-close and personal. We are his children. Along this journey, we ask the Lord, as written in Psalm 28, “teach me, guide me, remember your compassion and love for me, show us the way, and guide us with humility to justice.” We are called to turn to God for all we need, including how to respond to danger. This is our lesson of hope.  

It’s tempting  

For 40 days Jesus remained in the desert facing temptations placed before him by Satan. St. Alphonsus writes, “(Jesus) did this to show the world not to be afraid of temptation, but to face them so that we can understand our weaknesses and rely on God’s grace to help us from falling. We ultimately will become detached of the things of the earth and desire heaven … therefore take refuge in the arms of divine mercy.” (“The Love of Our Lord Jesus,” Chap. 17)  

God is always by our side. He even sends angels to “minister” to us during our desert time. St. Paul reminds us, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” He gives us everything, including the strength to endure the trials. He listens to us. Do I understand the extent of God’s love for me? Have I asked the Lord for hope when I am in despair? When have I called on my guardian angel to help with the battle against temptations? Do I know someone in need of hope?  

The glory of God  

The “superlative brightness” of God is something to behold. St. Peter, St. James and St. John experienced for a moment the glory of God in the Transfiguration of Jesus. Before them, “the glory of Jesus,  the Son of God hidden, but now revealed” rendered them “terrified and speechless.” St. Thomas Aquinas writes, “It was appropriate for him to give them an insight into his glory” [Summa 3.45.1], for soon they would be left in fear after his death.” God prepared them for what was ahead. He knew the faith of the apostles would be shaken after the crucifixion, thus he revealed the glory of his Son, as to strengthen their hope during a time of fear and loss.  

God does the same for us. He anticipates our needs and fortifies us by his grace. This is why the sacraments are so necessary. Although we are unable to “see” the graces flowing from them, we are able to experience the abundance of love coming forth. All it takes is our willingness to receive. During the season of Lent the Catholic Church offers ample opportunities to receive the grace from which mercy pours. Several church parishes schedule special times to pray the chaplet of Divine Mercy. Many have additional times for the sacrament of reconciliation and penance services. Remember to take time to pray, asking for strength to keep our promises, hope during the hard times, and eyes to see the glory of the Almighty God in front of us. Amen.  

Dow is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Baton Rouge.