Categories: Pastor's Desk

Each year, on the First Sunday of Lent, we read the account of Jesus going into the desert for 40 days after his baptism. While Matthew and Luke give us a detailed account of the temptations faced by Jesus, Mark, in the Gospel we read this year, simply states that Jesus was tempted by Satan.

If we are going to understand the significance of Jesus spending this time in the desert, we first need to understand what the desert symbolizes. For many, the first thing that comes to mind is that the desert is a place of isolation and solitude. It is a place where very little grows, aside from scrub brush and other hardy plants, and it is also a place that can be very dry. It is also free of distractions. Often, when in the desert, there is nothing but you, the wildlife, and the clear blue sky above.

That is why, in the Bible, the desert is also seen as a place of encounter. It is where many of the important encounters with God take place in the Old Testament. Abraham, Moses, and Elijah all had their encounters with God in the desert, after facing a period of trial in their life. Even the Israelites, after the Exodus from Egypt, spent time in the desert, so that they could learn to hear the voice of God speaking to them, and recognize His presence in their lives.

This understanding of the desert helps us to give new meaning and understanding to our Lenten observance. We too are called to go “into the desert”, so that we can deepen our encounter with the living God. We do this in a spiritual way, by discerning what things may be distracting us from hearing the voice of God, and seeking to remove those things from our lives during this period of penance and purification. Often, we find that the things that cause us the most distraction are the things that we turn to for temporary comfort in our lives. If we can learn to let those things go, we can deepen the power of our Lenten journey, and celebrate the Easter mysteries with renewed faith and devotion.

Our Lenten practices may not be easy, and they may be uncomfortable. We may even find that we struggle greatly to keep up our resolutions. It is in those moments that we are called to remember that God does not demand perfection of us: he just asks us to be faithful. Even if we find ourselves struggling during this Lenten Season, we can ask God for the grace to place our trust in him, and allow him to guide us to greater holiness during this Season of Lent.

Sincerely in Christ,

Fr. Steven Huber, CSB