Locusts and Wild Honey 1: JOYFUL LEAP Luke 1:41.44
During Lent 2021, we offered a spiritual journey through Lent in Germany for members of the Order, their youth and its Relief Service. It was entitled "Locusts and Wild Honey" (Mt 3:4) - Fasting with John the Baptist. Through Emilie Verbeken, these weekly impulses also found their way to Belgium. Thus the idea was born to offer and publish the Lenten meditations on John the Baptist also for interested people in other countries. I thank Emelie Verbeken and Florentine Haeusgen warmly for the idea and its realization - especially for the translation from German into French and English. It would be nice if in this way our patron could help us to have a fruitful time of conversion.
To all of you a blessed Lent and renewal of soul and body,
Fra' Georg Lengerke
During this Lent we are going to share every Wednesday an impulse with you, entitled "Locusts and Wild Honey" - at that time, the penitential food of John the Baptist (Matthew 3,4), today a delicacy.
John the Baptist who prepares Jesus’s way and who is Saint of our Order and of the Knights of St. John, gives us important food for thought for a fruitful renewal towards Easter.
He is not a "pleasing figure." His call to conversion is severe, his judgment and tone harsh, his life austere, and his appearance, all in all, rather unkempt. Such is John the Baptist, who prepares Jesus’s way.
The very first thing we hear from him is quite different. While his mother Elizabeth is pregnant with him, the related Mary from Nazareth comes to visit. She too is pregnant - with Jesus. Whatever Mary may have said as a greeting - Elizabeth is nearly torn apart by it:
„When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. “ (Lk 1,41)
While Elizabeth is listening, Baby John perceives the presence of the One for whom preparing the way will be his life's purpose. The first thing we hear about John is that he is leaping. The unborn child is dancing with joy. What is worth living for has begun. The promised One is near and coming.
We should remember this well in this Lent, if we do not despair of John, but want to understand him: That he is concerned with the one who is the saving joy of the whole world. This justifies all his relentlessness. He knows what is at stake if the ways are not prepared, the hearts not converted, and the intentions not brought to light.
I would like to propose that we make the joy of John in the womb the primary concern of our Lent: the joy of God's closeness as human among us humans. All fasting and prayer, our service to others, every sacrifice and our openness for the existence and work of God - all should serve the joy of God's closeness to us and to our neighbors.
John in the womb is also a symbol for our lives. The womb is his world. God has come close as a human, but is not yet visible. This is similar for most of us.
I thought of the story of the conversation between the twins in the womb that Henri Nouwen tells (based on a story by Maurice Lamm: Inside the womb. A Parable by Maurice Lamm, inspired by Israeli rabbi Y. M. Tuckachinsky, from: The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning, New York: Jonathan David Publishers 1969, p. 222-224). They argue about the existence of the world outside, just like we argue about heaven, and about whether there is a mother, just like we debate the question of God.
John senses the nearness of the One he does not yet see, but who will come to light. And he himself, John, must also come to light if he is to see the one for whom he will live and walk and die.
This is also what Lent is about. If the joy of God in us is to grow and be complete, then we must come to light. Because God has come to light."
Fra‘ Georg Lengerke
translated from German to English
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