Lent is Here!
“Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil.”
The Ash Cross has now been washed or rubbed off from a few days ago. We have begun our Forty Days of Lent. We hear in today’s Gospel of Jesus going out in the desert, led there by the Spirit. As I mentioned last week, He was led there by Love of the Father for you and me. Hopefully, that is how we are approaching our own forty days in the “desert”. Both with anticipation and some mild trepidation. The practices of Lent can help us immensely. The focus, the attention, the openness, the alertness to God’s presence, His call, His desire for deep and deeper conversion of heart. These are all actions to anticipate with joy and hope. Yet, such fruits come at a cost, and those costs can stir the trepidation. Saying no to false pursuits and idols in our lives. Clearing out space for God to really take up residence in our hearts, minds, and souls. Encountering Christ and thereby encountering ourselves more honestly and humbly. Realizing we are not yet the person God desires us to be. He loves us as we are, but as is often said, too much to leave us that way. And that, that challenge to change, to grow, to go, to mature can give us pause, make us wonder, doubt, even fear. Can I? Will I?
The number 40 is seen several times in the Scriptures, in fact it shows up more than 140 times. 40 is the number of days and nights of rain upon Noah in the Ark; the number of days Moses was on the Mount Horeb in prayer & fasting before receiving the Law of the Covenant; the number of years the Israelites were fed with Manna in the desert; Elijah too fasted 40 days waiting for God’s encounter and instruction; 40 years was the length of King David’s rule, the number of days Jonah gave the Ninevites to repent, the number of lashes minus one that Paul received for proclaiming the Word. It often symbolizes a period of testing, trial, or probation. Jesus comes to redeem us from our sins – yes, but He also wants to enter into our very lives so we may live lives for Him. And so, Jesus is shown entering into a period of testing, trial, and probation. In fact, this is just the acute start of that trail and testing – not fully to be completed until “It is finished” upon the Cross (Jn 19:30). And this is equally true for us now, here in this season of Lent. 40 is also a Scriptural reference to the length of a generation. Not that people only lived 40 years, but that there are 20 or 40 years between generations. And so, 40 can be a sign of a life and a legacy. We too may experience this Lent as a more ‘acute time of trial, testing and probation’ as we freely and intentionally embrace God’s Plan in these days, but they too are just the start of our new life in Christ. A path and a plan we too must follow until “It is finished” in us, until our full life and legacy in God is complete, and completely taken up into God. Lent has begun; but more importantly, our Christian life and legacy is beginning a new!
And this new life will entail tempting. The Evil One is not interested in your modeling your life upon Christ. He does not want you to entertain or engage in Holy Imitation of our Lord, which would be for our good and God’s Glory. The Evil One would pull us away and distract us. To be tempted, to experience an attraction, either from outside oneself or from within, to act contrary to right reason and the Commandments of God is no sin. But it is a trial and a testing? Clinging to Christ the Word made Flesh will aid and assist us in these temptations.
Surrendered to the Loving Plan
of the Father through the Holy Spirit,
Pray for us.
~ Fr Jeremy M. Gries