First Sunday of Lent, March 6, 2022

First Sunday of Lent, March 6, 2022

The Lord heard the cry of the Israelites in Egypt. He saw their affliction, their toil, and their oppression. And he brought them out of Egypt and into the promised land.

Gosh, how I want this to be so for the migrants I meet in Reynosa, Mexico, where I visit twice a week. U.S. border policy has effectively closed the border to asylum seekers from nearby countries like Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti. So, thousands of people are stuck in limbo, with most of them living in crowded tents waiting for policy change that may never come.

Does the Lord not hear their cry? Does the Lord not see their affliction, their toil, and their oppression

When I hear the first reading and Moses praising God for liberating the people of Israel, I’m tempted to think that this is God’s promise. If we suffer and cry to God, God will hear us and free us from that suffering. Tempting. But not the full message of our faith.

Jesus himself is tempted in the desert in today’s Gospel. “Turn stones into bread and feed the hungry. Become a powerful king and ruler over all. Put on a dramatic show and people will adore you.” The devil offers him riches, honor, and pride. But this is not the way of Jesus, this is not the way of the cross. Instead, Jesus walks the path of poverty, dishonor, and humility.

You see, God’s promise is not that God will take away our suffering and pain. No. That is not the promise of a God who suffered and died on the cross. Rather, God’s promise is that there will, in fact, be suffering in our life. But God will be with us in our suffering and pain. We will never be alone or abandoned.

Who do you know who is suffering right now? Someone at your ministry site, in your community, or you yourself? Let us join our prayers together this Lenten season and echo the prayer of the psalmist, “Be with us, Lord, when we are in trouble.”

Not to take away the pain. But to fill it with God’s presence.

Brian Strassburger, S.J.
AV Alum, Bronx 2006-2007, South Africa 2008