On this Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.
After Solomon’s reign, Israel splits into two kingdoms and then suffers through several centuries of conquest by foreigners, destruction of its cities and infrastructure, captivity and exile of its people.
Whatever happened to God’s promise to David?!
“Your house and your kingdom are firm forever before me; your throne shall be firmly established forever.” 2 Samuel 7:16.
Sure, the people turned from God, disobeyed Him, worshiped other gods, broke every commandment. But didn’t God promise that David’s house would last forever? Didn’t He promise of David’s son “I will establish his royal throne forever?”
God gives some insight into the centuries of suffering when He couples His dynastic promise with a fatherly admonition:
“If he does wrong, I will reprove him with a human rod and with human punishments.” 2 Samuel 7:14.
God provides Israel—His chosen people—these years of suffering so they can fully prepare for the arrival of their (and our) deliverer. He knows they are not ready for the fullness of His promise—His Son—and so He “reproves” them and—at the same time—prepares them for the coming of the Messiah.
This concept reminds me of my journey through Lent. Lent is a season of preparation, a season to put myself into the proper spirit and state of mind to fully celebrate Easter. Just as God used those centuries to prepare His people for the coming of His Son, I must seek God’s grace to use these 40 days of Lent so that I can better prepare myself to celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection.
The typical formula for Lenten preparations involves three distinct elements: fasting, special prayer and alms-giving. Each of these areas requires some measure of sacrifice. Fasting is an overt denial of self. Special prayer requires me to dig deeper into my prayer life, reach beyond my comfort level and draw closer to God. Alms-giving requires I give of my blessings to others.
Ultimately, however, I find that while this sacrifice may involve a modicum of suffering, blessings I receive through the transformative experience far outweigh the sacrifice.
Sometimes, it may seem that fasting is for naught. I might feel like I am speaking to myself in prayer. And my “alms-giving” might appear to go to the wrong people. Perhaps this is my exile, my Babylonian Captivity. In those times I must remember that even Blessed Mother Theresa suffered a spiritual desert. I must remind myself that these spiritual exercises will strengthen me and my faith.