This weekend we begin the great penitential season of lent. The time that we as Catholics and Christians can grow closer to God experiencing his unending forgiveness and his undying mercy. Lent is time where we journey with Christ in the desert and we transform our lives even closer to that of Christs. Through lent we, through the mercy of God, turn the sins and sadness of our lives into happiness and good deeds.
The church gives us three tools to guide our Lenten journey: Prayer, almsgiving and fasting. One of the more popular ones is fasting. Unfortunately fasting is normally reduced to absenting from food or drink. However good of test that may be for our Lenten journey, we also should fast from other things that prevent us from becoming closer with God. For example we can work at fasting from spreading gossip, being jealous, and harsh feelings we may feel for other people. Fasting also includes giving something up so that we can add something new to our lives. Giving up something bad so that we can add something Good, something that brings us closer to God. Instead of spending all day watching Netflix or tv or chatting online, we can go and volunteer, meet with a friend, visit the sick and sp much more.
Ignatian spirituality differentiates between these two by calling them “Desolations” and “Consolations.” Where desolations are things that separate us from God and bring us more focused on our selves. Consolations are the things that bring us closer to God and make us less focused on our selves and more focused on God and as a result on others. Lent is a time to acknowledge the Desolations in our life and fast from them, and to focus and grow more on adding consolations into our lives, to build our relationship with God.
In this weekends Gospel, we hear the three temptations Jesus faced, from the devil, while in the desert. He has spent forty days there, and is now hungry and experiencing what we all would feel in such a situation. The devil comes along and begins to tempt Jesus into accepting desolations in his life. The devil tests Jesus through three temptations: Love of pleasure, love of possessions, and love of glory. These three vices, were tests in the Hellenistic society and the rejection of all three would prove that Jesus was a teacher that someone should listen to. These three vices are desolations that we are all tempted with and that we all face and accept at one point or another.
Sometimes in life we can become hungry for Jesus, we can become hungry and experience and spiritual emptiness. It is times in our spiritually lows that we begin to look for a filling in other things, like material things, popularity and pleasures. However, lent is a time where we, like Jesus, can turn these things down and refocus on God the father, who is the true source- the only true and filling source.
We live in a world that is focused on doing what YOU want to make you feel good in this moment. It is a self centered view point that begins to make us feel comfortable. Not a good comfortable, but a comfortable that manipulates us into accepting decisions that are immoral and harmful to the family and God. We can begin to accept desolations because of this comfort.
However, God is calling us away from the comfort that the world gives and to enjoy the feast that he lays out. He has prepared a feast that we are called to attend. However, that requires us to pick up our cross and follow him-wherever it may go. It requires us to depend on Christ to lead our path and to guide us accordingly. It requires us to give up the desolation of selfishness and accepting the consolation of true faith.
So as we journey through the weeks of lent we should pray more and more so that we can become aware of the desolations in our life and so that we can continuously grow in our relationship with God. Instead of being complacent and doing the same old spiritual activities, lent gives us a rich opportunity to renew our prayer life and grow in a deeper relationship with God. If it is through taking time away from technology to pray or read the bible for 15 minutes every day, if its spending more time with family and friends, or visiting the sick or volunteering somewhere. The goal of lent is for us to experience the mercy of God so that we may grow in a deeper relationship with him, so that we may truly rejoice when Easter arrives.