Today we honour the memory of Blessed Jordan of Saxony, who succeeded Our Holy Father Dominic as Master of the Order in 1222. Blessed Jordan was such a powerful preacher that Saint Albert the Great was moved to join the Order after hearing one of his homilies. Blessed Jordan became an effective promoter of Dominican vocations and he is the patron of Dominican vocation work. He died in 1237 when his ship sank en route to the Holy Land.
In the first reading we heard Saint James tell us that “Everyone who is tempted is attracted and seduced by his own wrong desire.” This being Shrove Tuesday it’s perhaps the best day to hear these words. All over the world people use Shrove Tuesday as an excuse to party hearty before the rigours of Lent begin tomorrow. It’s the last day for a bit of self-indulgence before a season of self-denial. And so, it’s good to hear Saint James warn us not to let our desires get out of hand, not just today but any day of the year. It’s good to be reminded that temptation comes when the wrong kinds of desire are stirred up and fed. These desires can lead us to sin, and if we remain in sin, it can lead to death (James 1:15).
Here in England we don’t generally go over the top with our Mardi Gras celebrations. During more religious times, Shrove Tuesday was the day when Catholics went to Confession before beginning the rigours of Lent. In Old English ‘shrove’ is ‘shrive’ which means to confess. Now, there’s nothing wrong with having a little splurge on Shrove Tuesday. A few sweet pancakes are certainly within the bounds of moderation. But as we prepare to begin Lent, it’s good to be reminded how tricky and how deceitful our desires can be. We can want something so badly that we go to dangerous lengths to get it.
Now, not all of our desires are sinful. In fact, our deepest, most powerful desires are also our purest desires. We all long for the love, mercy, and joy that only God can give. We all yearn to taste his holiness, his purity, and his wisdom. We long for the day when all of our desires are purified so that we can receive “every perfect gift” that God has for us (James 1:17). And that’s exactly what Lent is all about.
I suppose there are still people who see Lent as a time of gloom and doom. They look on Ash Wednesday with a sense of dread. But that’s not how God sees Lent. God sees Lent as a season of grace and gift giving. He sees it as a time when our fallen desires can be healed and restored. God wants nothing more than to give us the best, the brightest, and the most satisfying gifts we can imagine.