Bishop David A. Zubik
Methinks I may be in a minority when it comes to an appreciation of TV commercials. While I don’t get the opportunity to watch that much television, I must confess that when I do, I really look forward to the commercials. As a matter of fact, it’s a highpoint of my watching each year’s Super Bowl. In most instances, I am not particularly interested to buy whatever is for sale (although sometimes the advertising changes my intent). What catches my attention is the creativity used to put forth the product’s message.
A commercial that recently caught my attention was for the new iPhone 12 Pro/iPhone 12 Pro Max. It listed the following litany of reasons to purchase that phone:
- Best in class performance;
- Improved triple camera system;
- Big and beautiful screen;
- Telephoto camera lets you see all close-up detail without being next to your subject;
- Smartest iPhone introduced since 2016.
That commercial almost tempted me to trade in my perfectly good smartphone for a 12 Pro Max.
That aside, in many ways the camera feature on a mobile phone has become more important than a cell phone’s original purpose—to connect with others verbally. The visual has superseded the verbal. With a smartphone comes the opportunity to take pictures anywhere and anytime of anybody.
To take a photograph is to freeze a moment in time forever. Snapshots provide an opportunity to see more in the photo than we saw at the “shoot.”
You and I have begun the journey of Lent. Might I suggest that there are at least two snapshots of Lent which we should reflect upon: (1) the snapshot of Jesus going into the desert for forty days and forty nights and (2) the snapshot of where you and I are at this present moment in life.
Each year as Lent begins, the Church invites us to journey with Jesus into the desert. The desert is where Jesus went before beginning His public ministry. And, I daresay, as I think about that moment in Jesus’ life, I wonder how much of what Jesus experienced in the desert escapes us. Jesus was in an environment with no protection from the elements. Jesus was in a space with little food. Jesus was in a terrain inhabited by bears and lions. And, in the end, Jesus was alone except for the presence of Satan.
This year’s recounting of the desert journey of Jesus, as portrayed in the Gospel of Mark, is unlike the same story that we read in Matthew and Luke. Whereas the latter two Gospel writers focus on the three specific temptations that Jesus faced from the Devil, Mark focuses more on Jesus’ presence in the desert.
Every snapshot gives us the opportunity to focus on the details of that moment. In this case, as we “see” Jesus in the desert, we can ponder and meditate on how the desert experience might impact us in 2021 as it impacted Jesus two millennia ago.
On Ash Wednesday, we “heard” Jesus in the Gospels call us to be a people of prayer, fasting and good works. These are all part of a three-point plan in which Jesus hopes to bring us to a deeper holiness and ultimately get us to heaven.
As you and I think about our chosen Lenten discipline, there is a danger that we may view that choice as a focus only for the forty days of Lent—all too happily to end on Holy Saturday! And when the forty days are over, we can then resume our normal way of life! That certainly is not what Jesus hopes for in His three-point plan. And that certainly is not much of a response to the words which Jesus spoke when he came out of the desert: “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mk.1:15)
Whatever our response is to the invitation of Jesus voiced again on Ash Wednesday, it cannot be exclusively for this holy season. Our prayer, fasting and good works are only the first steps in looking at the snapshot of where we are now and where we really need to change if we are serious about Lent and our relationship with Jesus.
As the Church in her wisdom takes us into the desert with Jesus at the beginning of Lent, this is an opportunity for us to enter into the sacred space of our own virtual desert where we have no place to hide; where there is no easy way out; where we can’t be too busy; where we can’t be too distracted from focusing on our life with God. Entering into this desert gives us the opportunity to be totally transparent with ourselves so that we can be totally open, honest and transparent with God.
No doubt this can be a scary place for us—for you and me. It is not easy for any of us to admit the things in our lives that really need to change.
As the Devil tempted Jesus in the desert, he tempts us to avoid an “honest to God” look at ourselves. It threatens the Devil when we do such a thing. But when we do some serious self-searching that leads to true conversion, the Devil receives from us what he received from Jesus in the desert—a firm and solid “no” to his antics.
So—Jesus invites us to go into the desert—to be honest with ourselves and with Him concerning what about us and within us needs to change.
And think. This all begins with a snapshot of where you and I are right here; right now.
Isn’t it true that when we pose for a photo, as we want to look our very best, a photographer will say “3 – 2 – 1”—making sure that we are ready for the snapshot moment.
Jesus invites us to do the same this Lent. “3 – 2 – 1!” Am I ready? Are you?
Photo credit: Justin Merriman