First Sunday of Lent: Matthew 4:1-11

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“The Temptation of Christ” Painting: Ronald Raab, CSC

This painting depicts Jesus’ temptation in the desert. Jesus is turned away from the sun, the source of light. He faces the darkness. He is juggling the non-figurative evil that he faces. He is facing ultimately the truth of his life so that his life will become a source of healing for us all. The devil does not win, evil is resisted. Deserts bring life in Christ Jesus.

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Dear Believers in Jesus,

Deserts abound. Not just hot, lonely and seemingly lifeless landscapes, but interior deserts as well. These deserts are difficult to escape. Sickness. Old age. Loneliness. Shame. Loss. Regret. Sinfulness. Broken relationships. Addiction. Fear. Revenge. Unworthiness. Greed. Lust. Self-sufficiency. These inner deserts are not easily changed or managed. These deserts capture our attention in the days of Lent.

On Ash Wednesday, we all streamed to the altar step and our human bodies were marked with the Sign of Salvation. Ashes blended together in the form of a cross were smeared on our greasy foreheads. On that day, we became unmistakable in our repentance and in our belief. This was the beginning of our Lenten entrance into a forty-day desert.

In today’s gospel (Matthew 4:1-11), Jesus enters the desert landscape. Why? He needed to face his fear. He had to encounter the darkness that can only rise up in solitude. He had to explore his relationship with evil. He had to overcome temptation. His entrance into the desert of conversion enables us to enter into our restlessness, worldly wealth and self-serving power. He had to tell us that all darkness, sin, evil and fear are overcome in his life and love. His message is not lost among the blowing sands, the hot sky, the open terrain, and the torturous sun. However, his message is easily lost among our inner deserts of isolation and pain.

“Lent,” means springtime. Lent is a time for inner renewal. Lent is a time when we are asked to face again the heat of our sin and division. Lent is a forty-day experience of prayer, fasting and almsgiving so that we can renew our baptismal connection in Christ Jesus at Easter. Lent is a time when we need to restore our relationships. We need conversion, change and hope. We cling to the love Jesus has for us because of his own journey into solitude. Deserts change people. Deserts form our hearts when we are confronted with our own lack-luster judgments and artificial pride. Deserts can bloom with hope and lead us to springtime.

Here are some ideas to consider for your Lent: Spend some time this Lenten season and pray for the people who are seeking baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist within the Catholic Church. Pray for not only our folks, but for those throughout the world who are preparing during this Lenten season. Keep a journal about your spiritual insights, the questions of your heart and how God is both loving you and calling you deeper into his healing. Examine your relationships and be honest about whom you need to forgive or who needs to forgive you. Practice a greater spiritual honesty about your life. Talk to others about how they pray. Learn about things you usually avoid such as racism, mental illness or the reality of human trafficking. Read what Pope Francis has to say. Read the daily scriptures with zeal and hope.

With hope and promise about our lives,

Fr. Ron

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