First Sunday of Lent (February 18, 2018)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus offers us a pattern that can enable us to get the most out of our Lent this year.

We’re told that the “Spirit sent Jesus out toward the desert where he stayed forty days, put to the test by Satan.” What did he do for forty days in the desert? He did what many holy men and women have done in the desert. He listened to God, his Father. As he listened, he also heard the alluring voice of Satan - a voice that challenged him to be someone else than his Father wanted him to be. But Jesus spent a long enough time listening in prayer that he gradually knew who he was and what he had to do. And he returns to the countryside, a powerful man with a powerful message: “It’s time! The reign of God is at hand. Reform your lives and believe in the good news!”

That can be the pattern of Lent for us this year. Jesus invites us into the desert, the quiet of our hearts, and he asks us to listen. He knows that our Father will speak to us about who we are and what we are to do. He also knows that Satan will also speak to us - alluring us with all kinds of contradictory messages. And he asks us to stay in the quiet of our hearts long enough to come to know and believe his Father’s words of love and mercy.

Our willingness to listen will prepare us well to come back to our countryside and announce our recognition that the reign of God is at hand. We will be prepared at Easter to renew our baptismal commitment to reform our lives and live more deeply the good news.

The real temptation of our Lent will be to leave our desert too quickly. If we fall for Satan’s trickery (“You don’t really need all that quiet time!”), then our Lent may be like many other times in our lives - just another time period we lived through.

If we’re willing to stay in our desert and listen, we will be rewarded for our patience and we will be renewed.

What choice will you - will I - make this Lent? Will we dare to enter the desert and stay to listen, or will we leave too quickly? Our choice can make all the difference to our lives!