Our grandchildren frequently request to hear stories about when their grandfather was young, which they call “Little Grandpa stories.” A favorite is the story of the printer’s ink.
Decades ago, the tale begins, one Christmas when Grandpa was about your age, his parents gave him a longed-for gift: a printer’s set complete with gleaming bottles of dark liquid ink. Grandpa’s father sternly warned him that this gift was not to be assembled until later in the day in the basement workshop. The waiting was too hard, and when his parents were not looking, Little Grandpa opened his gift in the living room. A bottle of that dark black ink spilled onto the newly installed beige carpet. His father angrily confronted Little Grandpa: “What did I tell you not to do?” He raised his hand in a gesture that could only mean trouble. But Grandpa’s mother quickly appeared between cowering Little Grandpa and that raised hand. “Dear,” she gently remonstrated, “he’s only a boy.”
Wide-eyed, our grandchildren nod at the mental picture and its obvious moral: Do what you are told; be obedient. But they absorb a complete picture that includes merciful intervention as an essential dynamic of the story.
Here on the cusp of Lent, that most solemn of liturgical seasons, this week’s readings are all about the pendulum-like swing of disobedience and obedience, sin and forgiveness, estrangement and reconciliation. But they are not simple children’s stories. At a deeper, spiritual level they alert us to the process of turning. They call us to look at our life and respond once again not merely to commands but to the very desire of divine love itself, the merciful desire that we turn fully toward the love that has created and sustained us and continues to offer us fullness of life.
Reflect on these words and let them speak to you of how God thinks of you: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jer. 31:3, niv).
In this first week of Lent, we prepare our hearts for a period of reflection. We think about areas of our lives in which we might be falling short of God’s desires. The problem of sin enters the human story at the very beginning, for Adam and Eve choose to follow their own wisdom rather than guidance from God. The psalmist highlights the importance of recognizing our sin and asking for forgiveness, which God is quick to give. In Romans, Paul argues that we all partake in the broken human condition because we all have sinned as Adam did. The story of Jesus in the desert admonishes us to be on guard against the deception of our fleshly desires and our pride.
Read Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7. How might this story help you turn from superbia to humilitas throughout your Lenten journey?
Read Psalm 32. What seeming dichotomies comprise the full picture of your life of faith?
Read Romans 5:12-19. How do you sense the differences Paul draws between Adam and Christ prompting you to turn toward God?
Read Matthew 4:1-11. What are your own temptations? How does Jesus’ response to his temptations guide you in responding to yours?
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