This is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly; setting free the oppressed; breaking every yoke, sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, not turning your back on your own. Then your light will break forth like the dawn. (Isaiah 58:6-7)
Lent begins February 26th. By definition the season of Lent is the time of preparation for Holy Week leading up to Easter. I am sure we know that Lent owes much of its spirit to the forty days Jesus spent in the desert preparing for his ministry. Jesus’ time in the dessert is included in all three of the Synoptic Gospels – Mark, Matthew and Luke. When Jesus entered the desert, he went alone. He left behind all the expectations of others, all the hopes, all the illusions that people had of what a messiah should be. It was just Jesus and the Father, in the Holy Spirit. But even though Jesus, in solitude, was in union with the Father and the Spirit, demons came to tempt him. He was not immune to temptation.
Jesus does not give in to the temptations offered to him, but rather, leaves the dessert ready to take on his ministry of teaching, preaching and healing. We know that Jesus was human just as we are. We are taught that he was like us in all things except sin. Jesus had free will just as we do, and he could have given in to the temptations. So how was he able to say no to the temptations? How could he stay focused on what was really important as he came to do the Father’s will? He was conscious of being in the presence of God. He fasted. He prayed.
Jesus went into the dessert in solitude, present to God in a special way, a way that left distractions, concerns, worries behind so as to concentrate on God’s presence. This is what we are called to do in a special way during Lent. It is a time to be with God. It is a time to try to limit distractions, concerns and worries. Just as Jesus and the Father were one, and were in union with one another through the Spirit, so too, you and I are called to be present to God and to grow in awareness of God’s presence with us.
While in the dessert, Jesus fasted. We need to recognize the importance of fasting in ourown Lenten practices. Fasting is a way of emptying ourselves of our distractions, concerns and worries. We empty ourselves in order to make room for God’s presence to fill us. God is always present to us, but it is we who are sometimes distant or absent from God. Fasting helps us to be aware of that presence.
Probably at some point in our lives we gave up candy, or watching TV, or added a rosary every day. These have value but I believe that interior fasting has special value. We go deep to the core of our being to be honest with ourselves to find the block that prevents a deeper relationship with God and others. We might discover that we are never supportive of a loved one’s job or hobby. We might find that we never have time for real prayer, spending time with God in very real way. We might find that we developed the habit of swearing, criticism or judgmentalism. Only you know what the real block is in your own life. Fasting helps us identify our weaknesses.
While in the desert Jesus prayed. God is with us and we want to be in union with God. As with any close friend we need to communicate. Lent is a special time to talk to God, but more importantly, it is a time to listen to God. In order for this to happen we need to be quiet interiorly and externally. This is a time that we need to leave all behind in order to be wholly present to God who is wholly present to us. Find a quiet place that will limit distractions. Set aside a determined period of time to pray. Commit to it and do it. Make this Lent the best one you have ever made.
What are your Lenten resolutions? How are they a way for you to be transformed or converted to a deeper relationship with God?
What are your temptations, distraction, concerns? What do you need to do in order to turn them over to your loving and forgiving God?