Lent is probably my favorite Liturgical Season in the Church. More than just reminder that spring is getting closer, Lent is a time for a do-over. It is a time to replace a distraction in life with a new focus to spend more time with God.
This week we Lectio the Liturgy with the Collect for the First Sunday of Lent.
Grant, almighty God, through the yearly observances of holy Lent, that we may grow in understanding of the riches hidden in Christ and by worthy conduct pursue their effects. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.
This prayer can be found in manuscripts dating to the eighth century. It is in the same place we find it today, the first Sunday of Lent. Our prayer this week is focused on our yearly Lenten observances.
In the Latin translation of the prayer, the word for observance is exercitia. It is defined as the performance of any activity, mental or physical to gain proficiency, or to get better at something. It might be considered training. I find it interesting to add the concept of gaining proficiency to our Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
It is through those observances, or our training, that we grow in the understanding of the riches hidden in Christ. These riches are our understanding of Jesus’ time in the desert.
How do we grow in this understanding? Through our own imitation of Jesus’ own fast in the desert.
In the Gospel reading for this weekend from Luke 4, there are a few things to ponder.
First, Jesus fasted the entire 40 days. We’re only asked to fast for two days, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and to make the sacrifice of not eating meat on Friday. But, like Jesus, we become weak and hungry. Our soul hungers for more of God whether we realize it or not. From that hunger, we are prone to cave in when we are tempted. Things can sneak up on us - like going out for dinner on a Friday in Lent and realizing everyone else has ordered steak, but you ordered shrimp but you love steak. Or watching just a bit more TV when you know your Lenten observance was for more spiritual reading. Satan’s temptations aren’t always big, like asking us to jump off a parapet, he most often works in the little things.
Next, the testing confirmed to Jesus just who he is. He had just heard the Father declare him to be his beloved Son, now Jesus declared that truth over himself in his responses to Satan, “You shall worship the Lord your God” and “you shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” (Yes, God is Satan’s God, too!) Remember that God is your God and trust that he will supply you strength.
Third, after the time the desert, Jesus returned “in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region.” (Luke 4:14). His time in the desert empowered him for his ministry. Lent should be life-changing. By the time we get to Easter Sunday, we should be filled with the Spirit and empowered as well! So here is a thought-provoking question for you. Why would you want to waste a perfectly good Lent and not be changed when Lent turns to Easter? We should be more like Christ come Easter Sunday!
Lent isn’t a one and done. Lent shouldn’t be endured, it should be celebrated. If you think about it, Lent is actually a sign of our salvation. Lent should be a sign of our joy!
Lectio the Liturgy: How do we withstand the desert of Lent? Do what Jesus did. Jesus responded to Satan using scripture. Study the Gospel this week, Luke 4:1-13. What stands out to you? How is Jesus calling you into the desert with him this Lent?
Thank you for praying with me!