Lent is a time for being real, when we let go of pretence, see things as they really are in our life and seek to allow our entire being to be changed from within. I emphasise our “entire being” because often we come at Lent in bits and pieces – give things up, take things on and do our best but our efforts are often fragmented and external rather than a truly internal conversion of the whole self into the image of Jesus.
Jesus goes into the desert led by the Holy Spirit to confront the temptations that are part of human life, to make the choices that are the choices of His Father. The desert is the place where there can be no pretending. It is a time when we clarify what are our real hungers and desires in life; a time to move from self-centred desire to God-centred desire. Don’t be afraid or shy to tell God your actual desires and, if they are sinful, ask Him to replace them with Godly desires. Keep asking even if it takes years for it to happen!
The first three words of the first reading are not about me or us but God – “the Lord God” – telling me that the first focus of Lent is God Himself. He is the beginning and the centre of everything. From Him everything else flows. Most of the time we are at the centre of our own lives and even our Lenten exercises can be about ourselves – proving to ourselves what we are capable of; making ourselves feel more worthy and virtuous.
“You must worship the Lord your God!” is the final word of Jesus to Satan at the end of His 40 days in the desert. He is putting God His Father at the centre. This is the way to begin, continue and finish Lent – worship God. Live it for the sake of God, for the Love of God.
Worshiping God also means being faithful to what God does! He formed man from the dust of the earth reminding us to keep our feet on the ground, to be down to earth in the way we live our faith. The words we hear on Ash Wednesday, “remember that you are dust” – reminds us not to lose the run of ourselves, not to have our heads in unrealistic clouds. It keeps us humble. Humility comes from the word “humus” which means “earth” or “soil.”
Worshipping God also means remembering that man became a living being because God breathed the breath of life into him. It is the breath of God’s own life that sustains us and keeps us connected with our divine nature. And so, when we are weighed down by our earthiness, discouraged by the struggle of temptation, then the Spirit of God in us is our source of hope. Jesus himself is our hope, it is He who wins the victory for us.
Fr. Eamonn Monson SAC