By Sr. Catherine Cleary, OSB
After suggesting we deny ourselves some food drink, sleep, needless talking and idle jesting, St. Benedict said we are nevertheless to look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing. Thomas Merton said, nearly 1,500 years later, the purpose of Lent is not so much to do penance to satisfy for our sinfulness as a preparation to rejoice in God’s love.
And yet today we are confronted with Matthew’s Gospel of Jesus being led out to the desert to be tempted by the devil. So what are we to do with these two apparent opposing ideas? On the one hand we are told to rejoice and look forward to the joy of Easter and on the other we are reminded that Lent is a time to do penance and to suffer as Jesus did.
I suggest that we see the unity between what seems like opposing views. Lent is the perfect time to take the journey within which will require denying oneself. . The practice of Lent is a participation in Jesus’ solitude, silence and privation and his adherence to the Word of his Father’s, “One lives by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” (Mt 4: 4)…Jesus appears in the desert as the representative of the human. In the desert Jesus is tempted by the primitive instinct of human nature. He is tempted by the same 3 excessive needs which tempt us. The excessive need for affection and esteem, control and power, survival and security.
This first Sunday of Lent we are invited to meditate on the word of God in the week’s scripture readings, to worship and to serve God alone, not material security, not our physical desires, not achievement and success.
Our Benedictine community prays, fasts and does works of mercy to a greater degree than during the year so that we may, as St. Benedict says, “look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing.” We invite all of you to join us in our Lenten observance this Lent.