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​FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness and he remained there for forty days, and was tempted by Satan. He was with the wild beasts, and the angels looked after him. After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. ‘The time has come’ he said ‘and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News. Change your mind and have faith in the new vision you are able to see. (Mk 1:12-15).
 
I love the economy of this gospel passage. But I have taken the liberty to change the translation of the last sentence because we associate ‘repent’ with remorse and regret which feed guilt. Jesus is hardly summarising his message with this. ‘Metanoia’ is the root Greek word of the original, which means ‘change your mind’. Like the supreme teacher he was, rather than condemn or rub their noses in our sins, he changed our perspectives,. Because his mission so radically undermined the way religion, politics and the money worked together, Jesus ended up on Golgotha the rubbish dump of Jerusalem. It was the place where the Romans performed criminal executions and later threw their bodies.
 
A landmark for me on a route I drive quite often is the sign “Landfill Ahead’. Eventually I found out what landfills are, how they operate and why, because of the greenhouse gasses they emit, they are so unpleasant and bad for climate change. Plastic bags buried under layers of soil take up to 300 years to decompose and when they do they produce tiny particles that pollute soil and water and enter the food-chain. Waste takes a long time as well as a lot of space. There’s nothing good to say about them except they are convenient places to brush our sin of waste and excess under a carpet of earth. I discovered the difference between a rubbish dump and landfill and then learned that archaeologists found that Golgotha was actually a landfill site.
 
Over the years we bury our mistakes and whatever shames us out of sight in psychological landfill. Dumps don’t hide the memories well enough. Our mistakes and failures are legion and perhaps cosmically speaking the great majority of events at the human level, if not outright bad, are mediocre failures. In this karmic dimension of reality what happens to all the waste? ‘Ridiculous, the sad waste time, stretching before and after’, as T.S. Eliot described it.
 
But what if someone, wasted on the vast landfill of failure, underwent something that wholly moved our perspective and how we see it. If this person, extending across all the dimensions, were to show a completely new understanding of how to deal with the sad waste of life?
 

Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2024
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