The Lenten period prepares Christians for the celebration of Easter. It is a period of prayer, fasting (self-denial), alms giving and penance. The season of Lent is for many Christians a special time of finding new orientation for their personal lives. This is all good. But, if this is the only goal for the practice that characterizes this season, then people are unable to embrace the bigger picture that Jesus suggests by His own example. For a meaningful lenten experience, one ought not to focus one’s attention on personal moral failure which may ofcourse require a certain correction, but to start afresh from Christ who gives true orientation to life.
Driven into the desert
The Evangelist Mark presents an interesting detail about Jesus‘ going to the desert: “At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days,“ (Mk 1: 12-13 New American Bible). With this, it is as if Jesus was unwilling to go to the desert, yet, in using the verb “drive“, Mark wishes to point to the driving force in Jesus‘ life and mission. Humanly speaking, the desert is not the place where one goes for entertainment. One needs to be motivated in order to appreciate the transformative power of the desert.
Lent is, in a way, an opportunity to let the Holy Spirit lead us where we would rather not wish to go. The Spirit leads us to more life than the many drives in life that lead us to addictions. For anyone ready to follow Jesus, being driven into the deserts (deserted places) of one’s life and the deserts of the world is the way to a meaningful experience of Lent. At the end of this experience (40 days), one who perseveres with Jesus emerges out of the desert with a certain degree of maturity. One learns to live according to the newly acquired orientation and hopefully lives the newly acquired tastes and preferences.
Tempted by Satan
It is important to note that all temptation has to do with the ego being enticed to what it is not. The question is not about self-fulfilment as many would suggest, but it is about inflating the small self, forgetting that a human being has other resources and sources for dignity and worth. Satan (diabolus) has a duty of bringing disorder. There is an already established order which Satan wants to destroy.
This order is rooted in the affirmation of the voice from the heavens: “You are my beloved child; with you I am well pleased.“ (Mk 1: 11). In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus calls this the word that comes from the mouth of God (Mt 4: 4). This word is essential for our true self. It implies that the season of lent, spent in the desert (free from all dependances) with Jesus, gives one a chance to listen to this God’s affirming word. The other two synoptic gospels (Matthew and Luke) give the details of Jesus‘ temptations.
A careful look at the three temptations will bring out the recognition that Satan tries to play around with the identity of Jesus in order to distort it.“If you are the Son of God“ is mentioned twice. If one is not rooted in one’s identity, it becomes easier for one to drift away. In the face of temptations which must certainly come, the imperative is: “Remain rooted and you will overcome the devil! Don’t allow yourself to be redefined by any force apart from God!“ Being rooted in God enables one to be driven by His Spirit in order to produce God-like fruits.
One of the fruits that are most needed in our time is the right use of power. The false self is ever craving for power in order to prove its worth. In resisting the lure of power, Jesus refuses to use power in ways contrary to God’s purpose. Throughout history, humans are struggling with power and have kept on failing. The time of lent should help us to check our use and abuse of power. The powers-that-be have made the world ugly due to the wild urge of fortifying their power. May all learn to use power in a way that empowers others!
Among wild beasts
The season of Lent is a good opportunity to face the wild beasts in the desert of the world. If we do it with Jesus, there is chance that we are not merely living our oppositional potential that often times raises dust and effects no lasting change. Of course, many will take the voice heralding the use of power according to God’s purpose to be a voice sounding in the desert because of the threat it poses, but, if we are to imitate Jesus, we have to name the beasts that turn the world into a vale of tears. Human history has been characterized by people who have been driven by greed in order to perpetuate themselves in power.
These have been ready to engineer many wars which have claimed lots of lives and our earth has continued to be soaked with human blood. Why all this? Because someone has tried to defend power. It is even a scandal to note that many a times that “beastly someone“ claimed to be a christian. This time of lent should see us transformed from mere believers to imitators of Christ.
Let the Christians wherever they are say a clear NO to violence in all its forms. This will be a lent which will see the face of the earth changed from a desert inhabited by wild beasts to a garden in which God walks with the people (Gen 3: 8). Let the repentance not only be personal, in a way of “private“ sins, but a repentance that will bear fruit when the sin of the world is exposed and taken away.
He was later sent to Comboni Brothers Formation Centre in Nairobi and came back in 1995, then went to Ombachi. In 2008, he was sent to Lodonga Parish till 2015 when he handed over the diocese and travelled to Rome for medical reasons.
Today, Fr. Roberto is back in Uganda working at Ombachi Parish. In June, he celebrated his golden jubilee in priesthood. The Priesthood experience has all been good for him, though he says it is hard to rank them objectively.
His memory of a good time he says were the years after the tribulation they had in Congo. He added that they spent time as refugees with their people in Congo and coming back with the people was great joy. He said the people he went with to exile were so grateful to him for not abandoning them. He noted that they revealed to him that they were happy that he spent the years of tribulation with them and returned with them. Fr. Roberto remembers that when they returned, it was a year of construction.
Though there was a lot of poverty, it did not make him despair because every day in Maracha was special. Another place that he enjoyed in his life as a priest is Ombachi, especially before it was divided into different parishes. This was because they were serving so many people in the parish. His major challenge was when he arrived in Uganda and had to run away to exile in DR Congo during the war that over threw Idi Amin the following day. Fr. Roberto said when he became a priest, he was answering God’s call to become a priest and he is happy that he said yes to the call.
By Fr. Anthony Kibira MCCJ