First Sunday of Lent – Renouncing Violence, Defeating Violence
In Jewish mythology the Exodus from Egypt catapulted into freedom a people who had been oppressed and enslaved. According to the legend, it was into the desert that Moses had led a group of slaves. Oppressed and bewildered, terrified and doubting, but by the end of the story of their journey through the wilderness, they were a nation, the people of Israel. The people of God. In the time of Jesus brutality and dictatorship was once again oppressing the people.
The choice before Jesus was to submit or answer violence with violence – he chose neither, and defined a new and ultimately victorious and enduring path. In the suffering of the Ukrainian people, their courage and endurance, we see some of that ancient history being replayed – the oppressor seeking to strip a population of their identity but only achieving the opposite – the rise, the affirming, the founding of a people – a nation.
The feast we celebrate today has many names; the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, the Meeting of the Lord, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, …. Candlemas – based on the tradition of the priest blessing beeswax candles on February 2nd for use throughout the year, some of which were distributed to the faithful for use in the home. Candles light our processions and stand on our altars, candles are with us at the time of our departing, at our funerals as a symbol of hope and light, but above all candles are with us at our baptisms, all our baptisms.
For if Christ is the light of the world, to the darkness in the world he brings hope and love and light. We too as Christians are meant to be a light to others – to carry the love and light of Christ to all whom we meet.
As the new year starts, advertisers often ask us to look ahead. January may be grey and dull we are told; it is dark and cold when you get up, and the same before you finish for the day. But just think, in the summer you could be on a beach, bathed in sunshine, far away from the realities of today. And, of course, it plays to our weaknesses. Our dissatisfaction with January needs little help or encouragement. But in all this looking forward we are blinding ourselves to the possibilities of life now.
Instead we might give thought to what energises us, what gives us meaning, what is our passion – now. For life is to be lived, not tomorrow – but today.
Jesus said ‘Come and see’.
What if he hadn’t? What if Jesus had not called Andrew and Simon. He would have found other disciples of course. But for Andrew and Simon, what would life have been like for them if he had neither spoken to them or called upon them to follow?
By extension we might ask the same question of ourselves. How would your life be different if you were not a Christian? If you had never been a Christian, what would your life be like? Where would you be, who would you know and love? What would you be doing, what would you be thinking and saying – what difference would it make – who would you be?