On the first Sunday of Lent we read about Jesus’ time in the desert. He was “led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” (MT 4:1) Jesus was like us in all things but sin, and all things includes temptations of every kind. Jesus faced everything we face in life. He faces temptation of every kind and overcame it. There is nothing we encounter in life that Jesus did not encounter. We can count not only on His being with us in all things, but in His understanding and helping us to carry our crosses. Jesus is one with His Father, totally dependent on His Father, and His will is His Father’s will, and through leaning on His Father in all things Jesus was able to willingly take on His Passion – His torture, suffering and death on the Cross– in order to fulfill His Father’s will, that Jesus be the sacrificial lamb for us and our sins. During Lent we journey with Jesus at first in the desert, but then through His Passion and death so that on Easter Sunday we enter into the Joy of His Resurrection and its glorious reality – eternal life with the Majestic Trinity!
Lent is a season of facing ourselves and the sin that plagues us. It is a season of self-examination. As disciples of Jesus why do we spend a whole 40 days looking into our interiors, into our souls? Not to navel gaze and be self-absorbed, but in order to SEE the sin and faults clearly and then with God’s grace to try to improve and not be a slave to sin anymore. God wants to be with us always, but sin blocks that union. We spend 40 days in the desert like Jesus did, facing temptation and with Jesus’ help learning to overcome the temptation and thus avoid sin. When we remove the sin in our lives we are able to be closer to God. This is the reason for Jesus’ constant call to repentance and renunciation of sin. His desire for us is for us to be one with the Father as He is.
In John chapter 17:6-11 Jesus prays for his disciples to His Father in Heaven:
“I revealed your name* to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.7Now they know that everything you gave me is from you,8because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me.9I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours,e10and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them.f11And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are. “
The three spiritual pillars of Lent – prayer, almsgiving and fasting (MT 6)– each help us walk through the desert of Lent. Prayer draws us into deeper relationship with Christ, to whom we look for how to battle temptation. Fasting tests us and like exercise, is training in the spiritual life, it helps us to learn to master our passions and not give in to temptation. Almsgiving gets us out of ourselves and our self-focus and teaches us to be more like Christ: God and other centered. It teaches us to be self-giving and love others as God loves us, sacrificially.
Over the next three weeks we will explore how each of the three pillars works in the spiritual life and how to best grow towards the Divine Trinity as we journey through these 40 days. First up next week will be an exploration of prayer during Lent.