Let’s face it. In contemporary America, we are surrounded a society that most times is in direct conflict with our Orthodox way of life. The constant preoccupation with sex, violence and unimpeded selfishness, and all seem a bit daunting. In fact, now that we are placing extra emphasis on prayer, fasting, almsgiving, worship and the like, we may even experience Great Lent as lonely place, considering many of our fellow Orthodox Christians don’t embrace Great Lent like we do.
Despite that sense of loneliness, Great Lent nonetheless will produce spiritual fruit. Consider today’s appointed Gospel reading listed below. (Have you noticed, by the way, that the daily readings during Great Lent are from Old Testament Monday through Friday, and from the New Testament on the weekend?) Jesus Christ went to “a lonely place” away from the commotion of society to pray. That, for us, is Great Lent. We don’t escape the commotion of society just because. We have a purpose, and that purpose is to spend time in prayer and engaging in the other disciplines that will bring us closer to God. While Jesus was away, it seemed that everyone was searching for Him, and they eventually found Him. That for us, and forgive me for stretching the imagery so much, is like Pascha. Once they found Christ again, many were healed from the demons that plagued them.
Similarly, in our Great Lenten Journey, we will find Christ and be healed by the demons that attack us. Those who were healed in today’s reading, were utilized by God as proof to the naysayers that He was really the Messiah. Will we allow our healing to be a proof to our friends and neighbors that God is real? That choice remains to be made. Great Lent might feel lonely now, but once we are healed by God, we will have a new sense of mission, namely to live as proof that God can heal.
At that time, Jesus went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him pursued him, and they found him and said to him, "Everyone is searching for you." And he said to them, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out." And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. And a leper came to him beseeching him, and kneeling said to him, "If you will, you can make me clean." Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I will; be clean." And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, and said to him, "See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to a priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them." – Mark 1.35-44