Today in the Eucharist, we celebrate the First Sunday of Lent. Last Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, we began the liturgical season that commemorates the forty days that Our Lord, Jesus, spent in the desert. Our Catholic Church calls this season, “a season of penance and interior renovation.”
The last five-day lockdown has caused so many frustrations, and scared all of us around our communities; but for many of us, during those five days we shared the experience of celebrating Ash Wednesday on a different level which we may have not known before. That five-day lockdown was a small retreat, a small desert experience, a small taste of solitude that we can relate to the Gospel today.
Today’s Gospel speaks of a time of solitude for Jesus in the desert immediately after His baptism. He was driven by the Spirit into the desert. Jesus remained there for forty days without eating, tempted by Satan, He lives among wild beasts and angels minister to Him.
Jesus was in the desert for forty days. ‘Forty’ is a number often associated with intense spiritual experiences. God caused it to rain for forty days and forty nights to cleanse the earth (Gen. 7:12). The Israelites were in the wilderness for forty years. Moses spent forty days and forty nights on Mount Sinai (Ex. 34:28).
The desert was the school where Jesus came to distinguish between the voice of God which He should follow and the voice of Satan which is temptation. It is in the desert that we come to know ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses and our divine calling. We cannot all afford to buy a camel and head off for the desert. But we can all create a desert space in our overcrowded lives. We can set aside a place and time to be alone daily with God, a time to distance ourselves from the many noises and voices that bombard our lives every single day, a time to hear God’s word, a time rediscover who we are before God, a time to say yes to God and not to temptation.
Have you ever experienced the desert or the wilderness in our faith? Have you ever felt that we cannot see God and his presence? Or have you ever felt that we do not believe in God anymore?
If so, we are experiencing the desert that the Gospel mentions in the readings today. Those experiments that all of us will have to face in living our faith in the modern world, they will help us to deepen our knowledge about God. The Church invites us at the beginning of Lent to seek God’s help in facing the temptations we encounter in our lives. Lent is not so much about doing something extra for God, as it is about letting God do something extra for us. It is a time for turning to God for the help that we need in dealing with the temptations we have to deal with every day.
Lent is a time for us once again to face the temptations that keep us from recognising and responding to the needs of others, and to God for the help we need in responding to his call.
May the Lord grant us a Lenten Season that is different from all the others that we have lived. May we know how to take advantage of the opportunities that we will be given to come to a complete conversion of our lives. May we know how to do what Christ asks us to do, so that we can finally, completely and truthfully be faithful to him.
By Fr Trac