is a special time for most of us Catholics. No matter how little we know about
most of us know that it is a time of giving up something. The season
reminds us of Jesus’ great sacrifice for us. His death on Good Friday reminds
us of the world’s greatest act of love.
of the spirit of Lent owes to the forty days Jesus spent in the desert
preparing for His ministry. When Jesus entered the desert, He left behind all
the expectations of others, all the hopes, all the illusions. It was just Jesus
and the Father. But in solitude, demons come.
We say He was tempted there, but
a more accurate translation maybe “tested.” In this place, Jesus was
offered the opportunity to be the wrong kind of messiah. But He rejected each
Lent, we abstain from eating meat on Fridays, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Many of us perform acts of penance or mortification, such as giving up sweets,
TV and the like. What is the connection to the desert? The desert experience is
about deprivation. Many parts of the world experience it involuntarily. For
many people, however, deprivation is a great evil, and to be avoided at all
In deprivation, we discover that we are not all-powerful. We are slaves
to our desires, to our bellies, to the opinions of others and to pleasure. We
cannot bear pain, so we take a pill. We cannot bear growing old so we dye our
hair. We replace our humanity with technology until there is little of
ourselves left. Doing without can strip away some of the illusions and give us
a glimpse of the truth.
we are people of illusions. We think we understand God, we think we know
ourselves, and those around us. We plan our lives and we are shocked when these
plans fall through. We impose our wills on God, our spouse, our children or our
friends to satisfy our pride and our greed for control and money.
Jesus did not
have such illusions like we do. In the desert, Jesus had no illusions of His
own to face and destroy. He was tested for our sake, so we would know who He
was not. He did not come to bribe us with earthly bread, nor astonish us with
acts of invulnerability. He did not seek world domination nor command any army.
He simply did the will of the Father.
Lent, we have the opportunity to hear voices that are usually lost in the din
of pleasure, meaningless talks and rumors to cover our inequities. We can enter
into our own private desert and face our own demons. We can tear down our
destructive pride, our craving for dominion and money and if we are brave, we
can run through this desert and find our real selves.
It is a nagging reality that we have missed something important; that
somehow, we have been untrue to ourselves.
During Lent, we use abstinence as metaphors. In a very small way, they
model the rejection of illusions about what we need, who we are, and who God
is. We can try to make some efforts in discarding our chaotic desires in this
life, for at death, we will no longer have a choice.
all know that anything worthwhile demands a sacrifice. Each of us has
experienced some sort of agony, scourging and crucifixion. It might be an agony
of mental illness or a scourging of some physical illness. Some of us might be
going through a crucifixion of a different kind.
Lent reminds us that Christ
has already been where we are and if we identify our suffering with His, our
cross will become lighter. There can be no Lent worthy of the name without a
personal effort to make our lives better, with greater fidelity and decency to
make reparation for our past mistakes through the practice of giving up
something for Lent.
By Tim Pedrosa
is, above all, the gift of oneself.