The First Sunday of Lent always presents us with the account of the temptation of Jesus by Satan in the desert. Although the Scriptures do not explicitly state that He was alone, that is what we sometimes think. It was only after 40 days that the devil showed up and began his attempts to throw Jesus off His path. The fact of this matter is that Jesus was indeed not alone in the desert. For as the Second Person of the Trinity, He was always united with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, St. Mark’s Gospel recount that during His time in the desert, “the angels ministered to Him.” (Mk 1:13)
Why is this important to point out? Because I think we can sometimes fall into thinking that Lent is a time for us to be alone in the desert. I have even heard people recommend that we not tell others what we are doing for Lent. Perhaps the intention is good, to help us avoid drawing attention to ourselves. But that can also foster a sense that Lent is about ourselves, our personal journey to conversion, our trying to become the best version of ourselves. I do not dispute that we should desire to grow in holiness during Lent, but I challenge the notion that it is something we do primarily by ourselves. Thus the reference to Jesus not being alone in His 40 days in the desert. We stand to benefit more from Lent when we make this journey with others, not simply seeing it as a desert journey we make alone. Let me offer some suggestions on how to do this.
First of all, do not conclude that I am telling you not to do those things that are often staples for Lent – giving up candy, going without coffee, giving up social media, etc. We can still choose these things for ourselves, but let us always be aware that others are on the journey with us. The people you live with, the people you see at Mass on Sunday, the random person you see at the fish fry on Friday evening – all are part of the journey. It can be a good practice to make it a habit to pray for our fellow travelers making this desert journey with us. Ask God to bless their efforts, ask Him to support them and encourage them, to help them grow in love of God and of their neighbor through the practices that they choose for Lent. It is a good way of reminding us that we are not alone, and we can be consoled in knowing how we are all united in prayer with and for one another as we journey together.
It can also be helpful to choose to do something with somebody else during Lent. It is like working out at the gym. It is often easier to be motivated to go when we know somebody is there with us. In that regard, we are giving you an opportunity to do just that. Later on in the bulletin, you will see information about joining us for a parish-wide study through FORMED on the Eucharist called Presence. Each week there is a video to watch and a reflection question. I therefore challenge you to identify at least one person (and it can be more, like an entire family) to go through this program with, checking in once a week to discuss the video and the question.
Finally, I would like to invite you to consider joining us on Sunday afternoons during Lent at 4:00 pm for Eucharistic Adoration. At 4:30 pm, we will pray Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours together. If you have never prayed the Liturgy of the Hours, this would be a great opportunity to be exposed to it. In addition to the Mass, it is an official prayer of the Church. Priests and deacons have an obligation to pray these prayers each day, and the lay faithful are certainly encouraged to join in, for this prayer belongs to every member of the Church. It is another opportunity for us to do something together as we all journey together during this sacred season.