The story of the Judeo-Christian salvation as consigned in the Bible opens in the book of Genesis, of the Old Testament, with a wonderful statement: “God made every one of them. Then he looked at what he had done, and it was good.” (Gn 1.25) Nevertheless, the obvious tragedy of evil, the overwhelming evidence of suffering, pain, violence, injustice, inequity and death . . . in the world, and experienced in thousand of conflicts: individual, social, international and of the family forces man to ask (from the beginning) for the cause of the messes, the attempts against the original harmony with which God created everything, and created us.
Biblical and Christian interpretation treats this experience, and the cause of evil as “sins” (in plural, in the Old Testament) and as “sin” hamartía (singular in the New Testament). This last interpretation, the one that interests us most, as Christians, as men and women of the New Testament, consists of a structural posture, a fundamental option of the life of man against his compassionate and merciful Creator and Father; against his will, and finally against love for the brother (especially for the smallest among us) whom, according to what was revealed by Jesus of Nazareth, we should love in the same manner and proportion to which God loves us. So, if the life in God is life in love, sin and life in sin is life without God, that is, without love; and the terrible manifestations of evil are explained as lack of the love of God, lived by men and women: His creatures, His children. But, on the contrary, all definite change of the experience of evil in the world –from the Christian point of view--comes out of God’s love among men.
In this historical point, passing from modern to post-modern times, the man of today is left blind, without an absolute truth to orient or regulate life. The life of today’s man lapses in the moral relativism of the half truths, of the hidden truths, of the life styles “a-la-carte” according to which nothing is worth anything or everything is worth the same following the practical usefulness things may have for enjoying the here and now. We live every day without the transcendent vision of history, and with the sad perspective of “no future”. Today and the immediate enjoyment is all that counts; and all that is valid and justified with that goal.
In today’s world, the moral relativism, subjectivism and sentiment (against all reason) as a theological interpretation of evil, universal and objective, lost its place because all is allowed to today’s man –especially if it is forbidden-- as long as it provides pleasure. On the other hand are the standings and behaviors of men and women closer to the modernism; these tend to judge everything as evil and a sin, in a very rigorous and scrupulous manner, and in the words of Jesus himself “You strain a fly out of your drink, but swallow a camel!” Lent reminds us that not just anything is sin; but sin does exist: it is the negation to God’s will which asks that we love one another as bothers and sisters, for the construction of a society and world better than the existing one, where we now live and for which we are all responsible.
“The LORD saw how bad the people on earth were . . . He was sorry that he had made them.. .”(Gn 6.5,6) Lent, a strong liturgical time which calls to conversion, is above all, a good time to return to the interpretation of the world and human history under the light of Him from whom hangs and depends our life. For Christ, with Him and in Him, humanity has a new opportunity; and Lent must be a perfect time to go back and look at our lives from the perspective of God, who shows us his love, but at the same time shows us our rejection of His love and the love of our brothers and sisters. Lent is a time in which our sin becomes clear: our falsehood, our lack of meaning, our treasons and fears. Finally, it reveals our lack of faith which is lack of trust in God who has loved us and calls us eternally to his home, to life in Him.
The conversion to which the Word of God and the liturgy of the Catholic Church call us to in the time of Lent, consists of taking into conscience the love of God, manifested in our lives, manifested in all we are and possess and –with it the consciousness of our sin as a fundamental standing against the love of God. Lent is a time for sincere repentance; for adjusting our lives to the life which Jesus proposes in his Gospel, and to have absolute confidence in the forgiving love of the Father.
All of this, against a society apparently satisfied, proud, pre-potent, conceited; with science and technical conquests, which instead of bringing us closer to “love one another” has placed walls between us full of sophisticated armaments to kill each other, and very far from the life in the original paradise for which we were created.
Lent is a calling to construct an ethical and moral society. The “amorality” (life without moral norms) and “immorality” (life against all moral principles) of so many travels, these days, through all the paths of life; and opens grooves of violence, blood, death, crisis, war, divisions, hunger, injustice, inequity, misery, etc.
The Christian theological system allows the believer in Christ to always start again, to try anew, to trust the loving Father once more, and to permit him to embrace him/her with His eternal love. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the experience that the original harmony is always possible; that the broken relationship with God, with our brothers and with nature can be cured forever; and that the kindness of all things loved by God, in the first days of creation, is possible today as well.
I invite you to live this Lent 2010 intensely, as a precious period in which the Catholic Liturgy allows for us to try again, and among ourselves, find the lost paradise which God made “looked. . .and saw that it was good.”