What does Lent mean for Catholics? Lent represent 40 days (excluding Sunday’s) to prepare for Easter and reflect on our relationships with God and one another. It recalls Jesus’ time spent in the desert for 40 days, in solitude he fasted, prayed, and listened for the voice of God. There he was confronted with Satan’s temptations. I call it facing our fears, and those prideful things that lead us to sin. Jesus knowing scripture so well, used God’s words to free him from the temptations, overpowering Satan, which is a good reason for us to study scripture. He then gained the strength he needed to move forward in his mission without distraction, solid as a rock. We try during Lent to model Jesus desert experience. We use these 40 days to reflect, fast, pray and do penance. Penance sheds us from our old ways and gives us the Grace we need to carry our crosses as Jesus did.
What inspires me in Jesus’ desert experience was how clearly he was able to discern God’s will for him, stayed focused, and set boundaries to protect it. He was able to say “NO”, when he needed to, and not get trapped into the needs of people, and let his good works distract him from his mission. This is a great lesson of how, doing good deeds with good intentions can sometimes, be a distraction from the greater good of God’s will. I have found myself many times saying “yes” to good things, more often than it was God’s will for me, and then found myself in service that drained me, my family, ministry, or work.
Pope Benedict the XVI is the perfect example of this. There is so much work to be done in his role in the papacy. People need him, they need healing, peace, and restitution. The pope can easily get lost in his role of service, and what appears to be God’s will for him, but is it? Perhaps, it was God’s will for a period of time, but now His will has shifted to another path. Through the desert of discernment, and prayer, Pope Benedict was able to see this shift and discern, “no” my mission in God’s will is to follow the path that does not align with the guidelines of man and he publicly resigned due to poor health. He put his ego aside and focused on what was best for the church as a whole. His love of church, and God, prevailed.
The key piece for me in this first Sunday of Lent is how Jesus found time to separate himself from his good works, to a deserted place and prayed. This praying and listening to God was extremely beneficial to him and to us. I don’t know about you, but this Lent, I am making time to find a sacred space (depending on the weather it could be my bedroom) and do the same. I will shut off my cell phone; TV, computer and whatever else will keep me from being distracted. I pray that this Lent you find for yourselves the way in which God is calling you to a deeper Lenten journey. May we unite with one another through our prayers and become closer to our God like never before.