If there is one image for me that stands out from this beginning week of Lent, it is that of a photograph of a woman with ashes on her forehead this past Ash Wednesday. The photographer captured the moment when two moms embraced one another with profound sorrow and broken hearts. Two moms were waiting outside the Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. A scripture verse that in some way captures this photograph is from Prophet Jeremiah, “In Ramah is heard the sound of sobbing, bitter weeping! Rachel mourns for her children, she refuses to be consoled for her children—they are no more!” This scripture is quoted again in the Gospel of Matthew when innocent children of Bethlehem were slaughtered by King Herod’s soldiers. This stirring photograph was emblazoned all across the world this week as a sober reminder to all of humanity that if we give into Satan’s temptation, we cease to be heralds of the gospel of life.
Satan’s temptation is nothing new. Ever since the time of Adam and Eve, the father of lies has attempted to alienate man from his community and alienate man from God, His Creator. He tempted the Israelites in the desert, and he tempted Jesus when he went into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. For 40 years, the Israelites journeyed through the desert under the guidance of Moses. Along the way, they were tempted to grumble, complain, and worship false gods, but they were not left in the desert to wander and die. God appointed Moses as their shepherd, quenched their thirst with water from the rock, heard them from fatal bites of vipers, and fed them with Manna from heaven. Our own journey on this earth mirrors their journey in the desert. God gave us Jesus as our Good Shepherd on our earthly desert journey, quenching our thirst for love with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, healing us through Divine Mercy, and satisfying our spiritual hunger with Eucharist, his very own body and blood.
St. Peter cautioned us to, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) The goal of Satan in his tempting humanity is simple: steer us to death. The temptations of the evil one are subtle and often sound like our own voice. His temptations are often pleasing, delightful, and always focused on self--selfishness, self-absorption, and self-importance. His tactics are pride, anger, lust, gluttony, envy, sloth, and greed. We need to imitate how Our Lord won victory over the devil in the desert by fasting, prayer, and sacrificial giving. We need to allow our prayers and the Word of God to penetrate and change our hearts so that our actions emulate that of Christ.
If we genuinely want to heal as a nation from this recent tragedy and if we truly want to make this the last mass shooting our nation has to go through, we need to fast, pray, and make difficult sacrifices to do something concrete to counter our culture of death. This means rolling up our sleeves and voicing our concerns to our civil leaders of the need for change. Like St. Joseph the men of our time need to exercise genuine masculinity that is to protect, provide, and lead as spiritual fathers. The women of our time need to emulate Blessed Mother’s virtues of faith, purity, humility, service, patience, and long suffering and walk in her footsteps to share in her glory. She is the model of all Christians, and we need to invite Blessed Mother into our lives through prayer so that she will intercede for us as we model to others our Catholic Christian belief in the sanctity of all life. Children absorb the attitudes and bias of their parents and their culture. Our children need to grow up knowing that obedience and self-control take precedence over self-gratification. They need to grow up having respect for all life--no matter the race, social status, and ethnicity.
As Our Lord proclaimed, this is the time of fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. The reign of evil one is over, and we are to repent and to proclaim the good news with our witness. Are we standing for the Kingdom of God?