There’s a time and a season for the feast and a time and a season for the fast. Lent is that season in the Liturgical calendar set aside to retreat and turn back to a deepening of our relationship with Jesus. The 40 days leading to Holy Week and Easter, the holiest season in the Christian calendar, is an opportunity to enter into the wilderness with Jesus. This can seem burdensome, too hard or isolating but it’s where the grace flows and deliverance happens.
People give up social media, steaks, M&M’s and coffee in a competitive one up-ness on who has made the greatest Lenten sacrifice only to boast it on Facebook and document when they fall. #fail
But do we really understand why we are giving things up and removing our creature comforts and daily addictions for a few weeks?
The Bible tells us that the Spirit led Jesus into the desert where he was tempted by Satan. Jesus fasted and was away from people, civilization for this period of time before He entered into that Salvific moment on the Cross. And yeah, Jesus was not hashtagging that. It was a real-life standoff with the Hell that was coming against the Son of God and the Divine Will plan to set all humanity free.
We are about to the half way mark on the way to Easter and so this is just a little check in to encourage you on the way. Maybe you blew Lent or have not made a resolve to go anywhere with Christ, let alone deeper. Maybe you ditched church and God things a long time ago because of some sin or hang up against your notion of what church is or isn’t. You see Lent and these 40 days are an opportunity for us to get back in relationship with Jesus. To unite our fallen nature with His higher nature. To be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. Matt 5:48
“Then Jesus was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” Matthew 4:1
The number 40 is seen a number of times in the Bible as a period of trial and testing to be cleansed and perfected. In Noah’s day it rained 40 days and 40 nights. Moses fled and lived in Midean for 40 years returning to Israel at the appointed time for God’s plan of deliverance. Israel also wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, until after those who did not believe died and Israel entered into the Promised Land. And of course, after Jesus was raised from the dead, he remained on the earth for 40 days until the Ascension.
40 is a big number. And it involves a prayer fight, period of preparation for greatness and knowing your enemy. Jesus could not conquer sin and death unless he battled the devil face to face with full knowledge of the adversary. At the same time, Jesus was not left to battle alone, he had the full love of the Father and angelic reinforcement in this test. He took this on for us.
You might be battling heavy burdens so entering into this “wilderness” time with Jesus might just feel too much.
But it’s fitting that we are permitted to enter into our own forty days with Jesus to confront the demons that assail us – the sins, imperfections, weaknesses, bad habits, generational sins – and deal with them dead on with the grace of the Sacraments to confound them. The Church invites us into the Sacramental life of the Church (frequent reception of Holy Communion, Confession) and to “fast” moderately as a form of mortification that brings clarity of spiritual vision (to see ourselves as we really are and the adversary). Fasting also brings power to our spiritual fight. Jesus emptied himself of all food and physical nourishment which in turn strengthened him in the battle he was waging on our behalf. We too become trained in self-denial for a greater good – for freedom and His will.
In the same way Jesus was to take the strong man down with prayer and mortification, He shows us how to follow Him to defeat the enemy in our lives. I encourage you to get into a radical prayer cave and lose the excess of frivolous gatherings, nights out and noise in exchange to mystically position yourself with Christ in the Lenten desert. If you have extra time, exchange a night out with friends for a Holy Hour at home or at Church. Ditch the favorite hours of television and have a quiet night.
There can be a lot of things coming at you – emails, Facebook messages, demands on your time from people who are not on the same page. Make an exchange of your desires and these distractions for something of Heaven. It’s in the silence and the wilderness where the clarity of His voice can be heard, His will for your life be made known and your deliverance from things unholy are won.
Pope Benedict XVI said, “The ultimate goal of fasting is to help each one of us to make a complete gift of self to God.”
There’s still time. You can begin again and surrender your own will and self interests for His interests and plans for your life and have the best Easter you have ever known.
Praying for you+