Fr. Francis Martin
We read in chapter 49 of the Rule of St. Benedict that the monks should “look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing.” Surely this applies as well to every Christian. The rigors of a well lived Lent are sustained by the memory and anticipation of the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. Lent is a time when we are asked to enter into the needs of the world and intercede for all those especially who do not know Jesus Christ, the mercy of his Father, and the prayer of the Holy Spirit. I would like to reflect a bit on this last point.
In the Letter to the Romans (8:18-30) St. Paul first calls us to hope by saying “I consider that the sufferings of this time now are not equal to the coming glory to be revealed in us.” (v. 18), and then goes on to give us three basic reasons for this hope. First, “the eager expectation of the creation” which itself “will be set free from the slavery of corruption for the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Second, “we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, are groaning within ourselves, awaiting sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” Third, (vv. 26-27), “Likewise, the Spirit helps our weakness: for we do not know what to pray for in a fitting way; but the Spirit himself intercedes with wordless groanings. He who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, and that he intercedes according to God for the holy ones.”
The clue to understanding this third reason for hope is to attend to the manner in which Paul describes the heavenly intercession of Jesus just a few lines later in Romans 8: 33- 34: “Who will bring a charge against the elect of God? God, who makes just? Who is the one condemning? Christ (Jesus) who died, more than that, was raised, who is at the right hand of God, and who is interceding for us? We understand that the prayer that the Holy Spirit brings about in us is precisely that of Jesus’ heavenly intercession for us and for the whole world.
If during this Lent we yield to the Spirit’s placing of the intercession of Jesus in our hearts, we will know a longing for the coming of God’s kingdom strong enough to bring down to an earthly dimension once again the heavenly prayer of Jesus. This is how we will know both the “joy and the spiritual longing” of the Church during Lent.