Lent 2018: Reflection for the First Sunday of Lent, February 18 – The first step takes courage

From the Maryknoll Office for Global Concern’s 2018 Lenten Reflection Guide: Embracing Jesus’ Practice of Nonviolence

Genesis 9:8-15 | 1 Peter 3:18-22 | Mark 1:12-15

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Lent is an opportunity for us to set aside forty days for a time of repentance, of giving up things that tie us to this world and looking instead to the life and teachings of Jesus.n the first Sunday of Lent, the Gospel reading each year is about Jesus’ temptation in the desert. The forty days that Jesus spent in the desert are a reference to the forty years that the Israelites wandered in the desert after being led from slavery in Egypt and the forty days and nights the prophet Elijah also traveled in the desert.

In Mark’s Gospel, we hear that Jesus went into the desert immediately after his baptism, led by the Spirit. The desert marks the beginning of Jesus’ confrontation with evil. Our Lenten practices are a beginning for us as well, to shine light on whatever temptations we struggle to resist. This is no easy task; it requires courage.

In 1957, in his first book, Stride Toward Freedom, Martin Luther King Jr. described the six principles of nonviolence that he learned during the historic bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. The first principle is “Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.” It is active nonviolent resistance to evil.

The courage to resist evil requires overcoming the fear of consequences one may incur while doing good:  contempt, disapproval, or even physical or emotional opposition.

“We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension,” Dr. King wrote six years later in Letter from a Birmingham Jail. “We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. Injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience at the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”

An example of this principle occurred during the civil war in El Salvador, when campesinos moved back to their land after being displaced by the military. Many had been living in refugee camps and were simply tired of doing nothing, waiting for the war to end.

“Their action was completely nonviolent,” recalls Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International. “Thousands went back to their villages within a few months. They knew moving home was dangerous; it was an active war zone. They knew they could be killed. We saw their remarkable courage and determination but we also saw their faith, their willing entry into the suffering of the cross – even death.”…

Click here for the rest of this reflection, questions, a prayer, suggestions for fasting and action, and more.

* Image of Arizona desert courtesy of No More Deaths/No Más Muertes, http://forms.nomoredeaths.org/en/. Used with permission. Image of Larry Parr in El Salvador courtesy of the Maryknoll Lay Missioners http://bit.ly/2B5D7So.

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