, in the Catholic church is a period of penitential preparation for Easter, it begins on Ash Wednesday, six and a half weeks before Easter, and provides for a 40-day fast(Sundays are excluded), in imitation of Jesus Christ’s fasting in the wilderness before he began his public ministry.
This period of preparation has been observed since apostolic times, though the practice was not formalized until the First Council of Nicaea.
It was a time also of preparation of candidates for baptism and a time of penance for sinners.
In this period of Lent Catholics often choose to give up specific pleasures, such as sweets, alcohol, or social media, this is a way to foster simplicity and self-control; many use their cravings or desires for these items as a reminder to pray and to refocus on spiritual matters.
The Gospel reading of the first Sunday of lent speaks to us of Jesus driven by the Spirit into the desert in order to be tempted by the devil. The three temptations–to sensual pleasure, to power, and to pride represent three fundamental ways that all of us can be distracted from the path that God wants us to walk. It is therefore a salutary Lenten exercise to attend carefully to the texture of Jesus’ responses to these temptations.
It is interesting that the Gospel places these temptations of Jesus in the wilderness, the desert, a place where he encountered both the wild beasts and the angels.
We too are called into this desert experience in this season of Lent.
In the desert what is impressive is its sheer aridness. There is no vegetation, no bird life and almost no animals. The silence is almost total.
In this season of lent we need to create a time and a space to nurture our spiritual lives; we must allow the Holy Spirit to confront the devils that haunt our lives, the wild beasts of our own selfish hearts and the evils of the world around us.
According to William Barclay, “Temptation is not meant to make us sin; it is meant to enable us to conquer sin. It is not meant to make us bad, it is meant to make us good. It is not meant to weaken us, it is meant to make us emerge stronger and finer and purer from the ordeal.
Temptation is not the penalty of being human, temptation is the glory of being human, Temptation is the test which comes to everyone whom God wishes to use.
So, then, we must think of this whole incident of the temptations of Christ, not so much as the TEMPTING, but as the TESTING of Jesus.”
The Season of Lent is also a time for Repentance, the word “repent” implies regret for our sins and resolving to do better. Regret without resolve changes nothing.
Repentance is like a child approaching the teacher in the examination hall and telling her I have ruined this page; please may I have another.
It’s like the prodigal son who returns to the father, full of regret and resolve and tells him, “I AM SORRY, NO MORE WILL I GO AWAY FROM YOU” the son is ready to be even a servant if only he gets a chance to be close to his father once more.
We too are asking God, “Could we start again, please?” That is the point of Lent—a new beginning.
In this season of lent, let us repent of the flaws in us that that keep us far from our loving God.
Lent is a time to recognise the subtle ways that the devil eats away into our hearts and keeps us from following Christ and being a true child of God.
The gospel of today suggests that there will always be wild beasts, and they will continue to challenge us all our lives, but there will also be angels who will look after us.
We need to trust and recognise that God does not leave us to struggle on our own.
The Lord’s ministering, empowering and comforting presence is always at hand. The Lord will stand by us.
God is constantly at work among us and within us. Like Saint Paul we can say, ‘I can do all things in him who strengthens me’.
Lent is a time for making God supreme in our lives, making him not just a resident but the President of our lives.
Fr George Carlos