Psalm 48 Song of Solomon 3:1-4 1 John 4:13-21 John 8:12-19
As anyone who has grown up in the church can tell you, Lent is supposedly a time to suppress desires.
Then why does today’s reading from the Song of Solomon offer phrases like “I will seek him whom my soul loves and I held him and would not let him go?” There seems no clearer expression of desires—and they are very clearly unsuppressed.
John Henry Newman, whose feast day it is today, offers some insight on suppressing desires. In a sermon, he wrote that “it is possible to obey . . . more from the fear of God than from love of him.” St. John adds to this thought in the readings for today, telling us that “There is no fear in love . . . for fear has to do with punishment.”
During Lent, we choose to suppress many desires—for specific types of food, for different types of comfort. But perhaps, like John Henry Newman suggests and St. John condemns, we are doing so more out of fear than out of love.
The readings today suggest that God is telling us that our desires aren’t necessarily bad. When we desire those things are God-given—not things that we use to compensate for emptiness—we are desiring God. And this should never be given up.
So let us spend part of this Lent not suppressing ourselves but considering what we really desire. Perhaps it is the assurance of divine affection, an invitation to live in community, help in our weakness, a solution to our personal failings.
Or perhaps it is just, as the Psalmist says, the steadfast love of God.