Renewing personal devotion
Testing After his baptism Jesus was led by the Spirit of God into the wilderness. Jesus had to find out what God wanted him to do and how he was to do it. There were certain things the Father had to show his Son if he was to respond personally to what he was asking of him. How was he to use what God had given to him? It was a time of testing and pondering and there were many temptations to do it his own way rather than God’s, a temptation familiar to us all. Jesus had supernatural power and the temptation was to use it to attract attention and popularity in the easiest way possible. Another temptation was to use it in the way the crowd demanded. He discovered that in none of these ways would he achieve the task God had given him. He must do it in God’s way and that would mean abandoning all these other ways and opting for a way that would certainly bring hardship and self-sacrifice. He found that this was the only way to real life.
A Test In Lent the Church invites us to enter into the Spirit of Jesus and think about how God wants us to respond to our Baptism and Confirmation, when he called us into his service. It is a time when God invites us to think about the quality of our own personal devotion to him and how we can improve and deepen it. Here is a simple test. Thankfulness – look at your life and thank God for all the blessings he has given you from the beginning until now. Family, friends, education, work, the grace of the sacraments, the power of prayer and anything else that comes to mind. Penitence – say sorry for all the ways in which you have failed God in each part of your life. Look at your failures in personal devotion, in betrayals, ignoring him, lack of response to him, the lost opportunities in the service of the Church and other people, the failures in relationships and so on. You may decide to make your confession. Aspiration – try and discover new aspirations in the worship of God, witness to God, and the service of God. Begin by finding more time for prayer and new ways of deepening prayer, in which there can grow a deeper dedication and commitment to him in your giving of time, talents and money.
Start Now Begin thinking about this immediately so that when Ash Wednesday comes, which is penitence day, you are ready to bring to God that sincere apology for the ways in which you have failed him. Let the ash that will be signed on the foreheads of many of you be a symbol of that expression of sorrow. Then take Lent seriously and let it be your time in the wilderness where you wait for God to show you what he wants you to do and how he wants you to do it. Respond positively to what your parish priest is doing to help you keep Lent in a renewing way that will mean making some adjustments in your timetable. Those adjustments may be God’s way of pushing you in his direction.
Arthur Middleton is Rector of Boldon in the Diocese of Durham