Jesus…was led by the Spirit through the wilderness
Each year, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Accordingly, next Sunday is the First Sunday of Lent, and in the opening prayer for the Holy Mass we pray as follows:
‘...through our observance of Lent, may we come to understand the death and resurrection of your Son and reflect it in our lives….’
As Lent begins, the prayer of the Church prompts one to ask a question much deeper than, ‘What am I going to give up for Lent?’ Alternatively, one should ask, ‘What am I going to gain from my faithful observance of Lent?’
Of course, a big part of our Lenten observance involves ‘giving up.’ Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are all aspects of Lent. Acts of penance by which we show our sincere sorrow for our past sins, and mortification by which we discipline ourselves to resist temptations, are probably the first things we think of in terms of Lent. The danger is that we can do Lent by default. Lent, however, should not be taken lightly. Jesus challenges us to be led into our Lenten wilderness by the Holy Spirit.
‘Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit through the wilderness, being tempted there by the devil for forty days. During that time he ate nothing and at the end he was hungry.’
No doubt, each year during Lent we sacrifice chocolate, sweets, alcohol or some other delights. Are our sacrifices, however, merely token gestures, or do we ask the Holy Spirit literally to drive us into wilderness with Jesus. Lent is a path that merges into the way of the cross. Jesus begins His mission hungry in the wilderness, and He ends it in thirst on the Cross. Ultimately, Lent is a journey to death, to Jesus’ death—but also to ours.
The devil attacked Jesus on the base level of the threefold human hunger for pleasure, power and pride which are represented by the stones, all the world’s kingdoms, and the temptation to reject worship of the one, true God. Jesus, however, never allowed human hunger to supercede His divine thirst to save souls.—our souls!
There is a wilderness in all of us where we must contend with our own hunger for pleasure, power and pride. More importantly, Jesus is there waiting for us. He wants nothing more than to defeat the devil in us all. Jesus wants to take each of us to die with Him on the cross where, in the end, Jesus proves Himself the victor.
Lent is meant to help to understand that we have everything to gain in Jesus.
The good news is that those who die with Christ rise with Him to new life.
BUT: Let each of us pray in our own heart this courageous prayer to the Holy Spirit:
Holy Spirit drive me deeply into the wilderness this Lent that I may come to understand more fully the death and resurrection of Jesus and reflect it in the way I live my life!