Of all the seasons of the Church’s year, Lent is the oldest and the most striking. The purple colour, the ashes, fish on Fridays, Stations of the Cross and “giving up something for Lent” all evoke powerful and common memories.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus goes into the desert and, during Lent, we do as well.
During these forty days, we try to go back to basics, to breathe new life into our Christian identity. It is like a fresh start. Lent is not about God’s fidelity but about our own. Lent is a time to revive our Christian life. We examine our Christian life through the traditional practices of Lent: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
The message of the Scriptures today demands a two-fold response. They are summarised in the twofold reminder given us with ashes on Ash Wednesday – Repent and Believe in the Gospel.
One part of our response should be a profound change in opening ourselves to the Kingdom of God, and permitting it to determine the direction of our life. The other part of our response should be that we believe in the Gospel – that we take Jesus at his Word.
Let’s act upon those responses. Let’s acknowledge that there’s evil in the world, and in us: We have sinned in what we have done and in what we have failed to do, in our thoughts, in our words, and in our actions.
Let’s accept Lent as a time of testing our attitudes, values, concerns and life goals – testing not with a view to pass/fail, but to improve ourselves.
Let’s heed Jesus’ call to renewal by living up to the saving waters of our baptism.
And let’s not direct our Lenten work of piety in only a self-centred giving up of things we like – a good beginning – but let’s move on to direct our prayers and actions outward, to the glory of God and the needs of our human community.