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I remember hearing this Gospel reading when I was little, and I always compared the season of Lent to being in the desert. Jesus intentionally took time to pray and fast in the desert, and since we’re called to be like Him, we spend a season of praying and fasting. We create our own “desert” by foregoing things that distract us from God and things that are good so that we can focus more on the Most Good. The Holy Spirit led Jesus to spend 40 days in the desert, and the Holy Spirit leads and guides us throughout Lent. As we take on Lent 2021, we won’t wander through the desert exactly like Jesus did, but we can be certain of three things that we’ll experience in the desert of Lent.
We’ll Pray and Fast
In addition to almsgiving, prayer and fasting are necessary for Lent. Jesus spent His time in the desert praying and fasting, so we should follow His example and be intentional about these practices. Prayer and fasting go hand-in-hand. Fasting enhances prayer, and prayer makes fasting redemptive. Both of these practices are ways that we can intercede for others and grow in sacrificial love. In so many ways, Lent is not about us. When we commit to prayer and fasting, we deepen our faith by leaning on the Lord instead of on ourselves.
We’ll Be Tempted
At some point, we’ll hit what I like to call the “Lent slump.” Lent will lose it’s newness, we’ll crave the things we’re fasting from, and we’ll count down the days until Lent is over. Eventually, we all will be tempted to choose something else over God, whether that be sleep instead of prayer, or eating a snack instead of keeping our fast. Jesus was human, just like us, so even He experienced temptations. But Jesus was also perfect, so He didn’t fall. We’ll be tempted, but we can look to Jesus for strength. He can inspire us to be perfect like Him, and when we fall, He’s always there to forgive us and love us when we return to Him.
Jesus Will Be With Us
Speaking of Jesus, He’ll be present with us throughout Lent. In Matthew 28:20, Jesus says “I am with you always.” Lent is a beautiful time of growth and renewal as we deepen our faith, but it’s also a difficult time of penance and discipline. Fortunately, Jesus will be with us through it all. This is a season of drawing near to Jesus, and the closer we get to Him, the more we’ll feel Him with us. Jesus wandered through the desert alone, but we don’t have to. When we’re feeling isolated and defeated in the desert, we can look up and remember that Jesus was there, and He’s here with us now.
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You might have started your journey through the desert eagerly, excited to repent and do penance. Maybe you entered the desert reluctantly because you’ve been dreading Lent. Either way, the Holy Spirit prompts us here to be close with Jesus. He’s inviting you to rely less on yourself and things of this world so that you can fall more in love with Him. The desert of Lent can be difficult and uncomfortable, but the growth it offers it’s necessary for our salvation. Jesus wandered in the desert praying and fasting for 40 days because it was necessary for His ministry. Those 40 days of sacrifice prepared Him for the ultimate sacrifice on Good Friday, and without Good Friday, there would be no Easter Sunday.
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