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March 9, 2018 - What's Wrong in Being a Little Hungry

Friday of the Third Week of Lent

Scripture Readings

Usually by this time, the end of the third week of Lent, I’ve started to waver a bit in my resolve to abstain from certain foods, to pray for certain things, to give money generously.  Particularly I have difficulty with my decision to abstain from certain foods.  As with New Years’ Resolutions, I start thinking that eating just a nibble of something or other won’t really hurt, and before you know it, I’m way off the track.  Or, even if I have by some chance made it this far without succumbing to temptation, I find myself tired and annoyed with Lent, saying, “Okay, I get the point now.  Can we get to Easter already?”  But it turns out instead that there are another three long weeks ahead.

It reminds me of when I did an Outward Bound course in high school.  Each of us on the trip was asked to do a “solo” – to spend time away by ourselves in the desert, with no food and just a canteen of water.  The “solo” is rather a lot like Lent, in fact!  I remember when I first started the solo, I was hungry and I focused on that hunger.  But eventually, I realized that I could do two things: 1) I could focus on the hunger and make it worse; or 2) I could recognize that little bit of hunger wasn’t going to kill me.  In fact, I realized the solo was a way of seeing how much strength I had (more than I imagined). Not eating food during the solo gave me the space and time to think about important questions I needed to ask about how angry I was with God and people about my hearing loss, and whether I was becoming the person God wanted me to be.  Sometimes we are so satiated (with food or other things) that we think everything is fine – but that false feeling of “fine” only comes from being full.  If we weren’t quite so full, we might realize that there are, in fact, some significant problems to deal with.

Today’s readings are specially chosen for this near-midway point in Lent, I think, to encourage us not to focus on the “hunger” or on veering from the path, but to stick with it.  There is a strong strand of hearing God, returning to God, following God’s path in each of these readings. Hosea says, “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God…. Straight are the paths of the LORD, in them the just walk….” (Hosea 14:2-10)  The Psalmist proclaims, “If only my people would hear me, and Israel would walk in my ways, I would feed them with finest wheat and fill them with honey from the rock.” (Psalm 81: 6c-8a, 8bc-9, 10-11ab, 14 and 17) Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is Lord alone” and that we should love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind, and our neighbors as ourselves. (Mark 12:28-34) 

Now is the point, an especially dangerous point, where we could veer from our Lenten journey and take a path that is not straight, as Hosea suggests about the “sinners who stumble”.  But now is also the point where we could listen for God’s voice, keep to God’s commandments and hope in that promise of “finest wheat” and “honey from the rock.”  Lent will not last forever.  We will not be hungry forever.  And perhaps something great will come from making the journey through Lent.

-          Jana M. Bennett