JESUS’ DESERT EXPERIENCE – A SUMMONS TO IMITATE HIM
1. My venerable brothers in the Priesthood, my dear Deacons and Seminarians, my beloved Religious Men and Women, and my treasured Brothers and Sisters in Christ!
2. After enjoying an unusual long period following Christmas, we now move into the Season of Lent, which begins with Ash Wednesday, a period over six weeks and leads us into Easter. This is a period of more intensive prayer, fasting and abstinence coupled with alms giving and works of penance. This period helps us in preparation for a more worthy participation in the paschal mystery – the mystery of suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter.
3. The Lenten Season in a way marks Jesus’ desert experience, the forty days of fasting and prayer which culminated in his temptation by, and his subsequent victory over Satan (Cf. Mt. 4:1-11). The desert experience of Jesus not only holds special significance for us but also prefigures our own salvation history. It is in the desert that Moses met with God and prepared for his ministry of liberating the children of Israel from Egypt into the Promised Land (Ex. 3:1-20). It is in the desert that Elijah fasted for forty days and prepared himself for the great task of a prophet (1Kg. 17:2-16). It is in the desert that John the Baptist grew and matured into an uncompromising advocate of the truth (Lk. 3: 1-18).
4. The desert then is the land of austerity and withdrawal. It is a school of detachment, discipline and self control. It is a place of utter vulnerability and surrender. It is an environment that helps us to acquire the right disposition to respond to God’s call. Indeed it is the territory within which we find an Oasis, the bounty of God and of our own inner riches that propel us in pursuit of the love and charity of God.
5. Our Lenten Season this year is a summons to imitate the desert experience of Jesus. After Jesus’ baptism he was led into the desert by the Spirit where He fasted and prayed for forty days and nights (Cf. Lk. 4: 14-15; Mt. 4: 1-11 and Mt. 4: 1-11). When the evil one appeared to tempt him with food, wealth and fame, Jesus dismissed the tempter and chose the path of hunger, poverty, humility and obedience to God and subsequently, emerged victorious.
6. The story of the temptation of Jesus (Mt. 4:1-11) shows how the evil one lures us to the kingdom of darkness, using the natural human instinct for food and drink, the instinct for luxury and pleasure and the instinct for security and power.
7. As we journey towards our eternal destiny we equally face the same challenges, the same temptations with food, wealth and fame. More often than not we fall prey to these temptations. Lent, therefore, gives us an opportunity of a desert experience of detachment, a desert experience of self control and a desert experience of surrender to the will of God so as to discover the oasis deep within each one of us.
8. As we eagerly wait for the forthcoming tripartite general elections, I wish to call upon all the stakeholders especially the general populace, the opposition and the ruling government to reflect seriously with me on the scriptural text of Mt. 4:1-11. The text gives us a background to understand leadership as a tool of service and sacrifice to the people of God who are entrusted to our care. Thus those vying for position of leadership should not fall short of service and sacrifice for the betterment of the poor who are the majority. And above all, they should endeavor to pursue the will of God in the promotion of justice, peace, reconciliation and unity amongst our people of diverse cultural, tribal, religious and political affiliations.
9. On one of our esteemed projects under construction in Ndola, there is a caption which states: “Your government and Your money at work”. May I hasten to mention that today; we need our government and our money in the furtherance of a dignified way of life of our people. In order to live a dignified life in Zambia in general and on the Copperbelt in particular, there is need for fresh thinking which will improve the life conditions in many important areas of our society, such as food production, clean and adequate water, job creation, shelter, road infrastructure, education, basic healthcare and support to the weak, especially: the elderly, the youth, the sick, widows and orphans.
10. I wish you a prayerful desert experience of the Lenten Season, a joyous victory over temptations, sin and death, and above all the joy of the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. May Mary the Mother of the Risen Lord intercede for you. And I impart my Apostolic Blessing on all of you and all those with whom you share this Lenten Message.
+Dr. Alick Banda
Bishop of Ndola