Last year, I picked up a little book off of a thrift store bookshelf for a couple bucks. I often find some real gems on bookshelves like that. This one was a daily reading for Lent called Lenten Gospel Reflections. Today I read the introduction, which I found to be quite compelling as it drew me forward into Lent, which begins tomorrow.
This little book is written by Bishop Robert Barron who is widely known for his writing and teaching in the ministry that he founded called Word on Fire. While I am not Catholic, I do commend and often greatly enjoy the Catholic faith for the rhythms of tradition. These cycles of remembering, repenting, and reconciling have often drawn me in and caused me to see Christ in a new and deeper way, which is why I observe Lent and Advent yearly.
Starting tomorrow begins the 40 day journey with Jesus. It’s harder than we think. We often drift and forget but Lent is a reminder to stubbornly stick with Jesus- reading what He did and seeing what He faced – asking God to help us to have an encounter with Him, not just read about Him. Jesus went into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights to be tempted of the devil.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.Matthew 4:1-2
Notice that Jesus was led by the Spirit to this wilderness. The desert is the place where so much is striped away, all the things that are trivial and overvalued, that it has a way of making things in life become remarkably and often disturbingly clear. Lent has a way of shaking out what is distracting us, because lets be honest, much distracts us. We mostly use distraction as a way of avoiding deep questions, and instead we entertain ourselves with things that bore us. We can tell because not much holds our attention anymore as we swipe along every 3 seconds on our phones. I will be fasting my evening swipefest.
So what is actually happening? When we live distracted like that we are actually turned away from facing the hard questions that need to be asked. In by gone days, people pondered long on the question of life, often sitting on the porch with a cool drink, a journal, while the questions bubbled up from below the surface of their awareness. This is what Lent is for, it allow space to ponder our way, our mortality, and the call of God on our lives. God often called holy people to deserted places, to where all the distractions are small, and He can become larger in their view. John the Baptists, who lived in the desert famously said, John 3:30. “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
But Lent isn’t just reading and pondering. It is also allowance of the tempter to come and try us because once we have allowed those questions and heard the voice of the Lord. Its time to make a decision. Clarity brings decisiveness. Jesus often brought people to the point of decision and then the test came. What will you do? Where will you stand? Will you follow him or run?
This enemy comes to test what we love. Is it pleasure? Is it our own way? Is it control? What is it?
That is what Lent is for… its for revealing the things in the way of the call on our lives and to reorienting us to God’s will, God’s way, and God’s kingdom. This is where we find a deeper understanding of Jesus and who we really are!
All is grace,