Hope in the desert, how does that sound? The idea of hope in the desert is difficult to grasp. No life, no food and no water; it is just dry. The chapter preceding today’s gospel reading mentioned the baptism of Jesus. It was after Jesus was baptized that the Holy Spirit sent him into the desert, where he fasted for forty days and was tempted by the devil. Even as after our baptism we are sent into a world full of temptations.
God led the people of Israel into the desert, to forge them into a new people. The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert to clarify the meaning of his Messiahship. The Holy Spirit leads us into the desert of Lent to reflect on how we have not always resisted temptation and have failed in love. In the desert we seek mercy and forgiveness.
We need to note that, it is not literally that the devil appeared to Jesus, but in his mind. I say that we can’t prevent the thoughts that come into our minds, may they be pure or impure thoughts. Impure thoughts become sin once we start dwelling on them. Even Jesus was tempted to sin, but he didn’t entertain the impure thoughts. Sometimes it is easy to think of Jesus as being so pure and innocent that he was detached from the possibility of sin, but we remember that he is fully human, in all things but sin. In the desert, Jesus was just as human as the rest of us. He was tempted by bodily desires; power, glory and popularity.
Like Jesus, we too have to make a definite decision to be faithful to our baptismal call in this Lenten Season, by overcoming temptations pertaining to our basic drives, namely those that lead us to seek total security in material things, to worship power and wealth, and to seek cheap popularity.
Lent is an important time of the year for us because it focuses on two vital aspects of our inner faith lives; repentance and renewal. A greater emphasis is placed on prayer, almsgiving and fasting. Since many of us pray and give at other times during the year, fasting is probably the most noticeable change we are asked to make during Lent. Fasting can be a powerful spiritual exercise and a way to express our repentance. It makes us more focused on our spiritual needs and the needs of others and lead us to understand our inadequacy.
Lent is a time for preparation for Easter; it is a time for renewal of our baptismal grace and commitment. Therefore we should fast with a difference.
Fasting with a difference means: (1) Fast from anger and hatred. Give your family an extra dose of love each day. (2) Fast from judging others. (3) Fast from discouragement and trust in God’s promises. (4) Fast from complaining; instead, close your eyes and think of the good things you are enjoying. (5) Fast from resentment or bitterness. Work on forgiving those who may have hurt you. (6) Fast from spending too much money on comforts and enjoyments. Try to reduce your spending by ten percent and give those savings to the poor.