This past Wednesday we entered into the sacred Lenten Season. The word Lent comes from the Germanic term for “springtime” - a time when new life emerges from what has lain dormant throughout the winter. For Christians, Lent is the time in which we make an “annual retreat,” embracing the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Throughout this “retreat” we hope to grow deeper in our relationship with God. In our culture, there is little time to stop, become quiet and reflect upon our lives and the manner in which we are faithfully living our baptismal call. So, the Church helps us: to till the soil of our faith, nurture the seeds that are dormant in our hearts, and make space for God to bring to birth new life in us. If we approach the Lenten Season as a “retreat” and take the opportunity to enter into silence as we gather for Mass these days and continue that silence as we leave church (reflecting upon the Word we have heard and the Eucharist we have received), we may notice a change taking place within ourselves. We may become more mindful of God’s presence here and now. We may understand how Sunday Worship leads to and enhances other prayer experiences we take part in during the week. We may stop to think about what we say before we speak, knowing that words are powerful. We may look at others in a new light. We may begin to realize what kind of a fast God is asking us to embrace. We may even be moved to invite others to enter into this experience each Sunday of Lent, especially those who have not been to church for a while. The Lenten Season should really stand out from Ordinary Time. Will it, for each of us? How can we, with God’s grace, make this Lent a time of Spring and new growth?
This First Sunday of Lent, we observe Jesus in the desert. He is filled with the Spirt after his baptism in the Jordan River, and is led by that same Spirit into the desert for forty days “to be tempted by the devil.” Jesus, who was like us in all things except sin, faced temptation. After forty days of prayer and fasting, the Son of Man was physically weak. However, because of his prayer and fasting, he was spiritually strong; the Son of God overcame temptation. He understood his mission from the Father, and, in no way, was the devil going to prevent him from faithfully accomplishing that mission. Jesus invites us into the desert to fast and pray. He realizes that we, too, will be tempted. And he understands that sometimes we will fail. Jesus also knows that the Spirit we received in baptism will be with us and that in our struggles “with the devil,” God’s grace will transform us.
Blessings on your Lenten “Retreat”!
Sister Chris Gretka, CSJ