From Our Pastor: Lent is a Great Time of Sacrifice, Discipline, Restraint, and Renewal
Lent is a great time of sacrifice, discipline, restraint, and renewal. It is a moment to die to one’s desires and live for Christ. Even more so, it is to die to oneself and become like Christ, allowing Him to reign in your heart and life. Lent is 40 days in length. The word Lent as a season appears nowhere in the Bible. It is slightly odd then that our “scripture alone” believing Christian friends practice Lent and call this time Lent even though it is a product of tradition and not Scripture. Now tradition and Scripture as we know go hand in hand and do not contradict one another, so where does this tradition come from and is there any reference to it at all in Scripture? To answer that question, we go into the desert this weekend with Jesus, but first let us prepare ourselves for the desert experience.
When we look at the book of Deuteronomy this weekend, we see Moses speaking to the people, to Israel, the Israelites. Moses is speaking to them after the desert experience. They have come through the desert and are in the promise land, but he reminds them of what God had done to save them, which we call salvation history. Moses commands them to offer sacrifice to the Lord through the priests. He commands them to announce their wandering, their growth and expansion into a nation instead of one small family, their enslavement, the signs and wonders of God, and their freedom in this promised land of plenty.
After you declare to the world and remind yourself of this salvation story, you offer the first fruits, the best, and bow down in worship of your God. Reminding yourself of all that God has done for you and in you to give you confidence to trust completely in Him, so that you may offer the FIRST and BEST to God before anything else. This means you must trust there will be more, and even though it may not be the best it is a plentiful gift. Does this mean at times it will be sometimes less than more? Yes, but that God always provides and in abundance when we trust in Him. Reminding ourselves of all that God has done, and how He has won the salvation (most especially in the prefigurement that points to the fulfilment of Christ), now we enter with Christ into the desert.
Lent is 40 days in the desert. This practice came about because we follow the model and example of Christ, and He went into the desert for 40 days, in the example of the 40 years Israel wandered through the desert. 40 is a number of formation and transformation. By the time 40 years is done, they are a totally different people, literally and physically, than they were when they began. So, we enter 40 days in the desert in Lent. Like Jesus’ model, it is our baptism and being filled with the Holy Spirit in this sacrament that leads us into the desert.
Here in the desert, you will be tempted, if you haven’t already, to give up your Lenten practices. Jesus fasted during this desert experience; now He ate nothing, so stop complaining about how tough it is to refrain from meat and smaller meals a few times in the 40 days. See this fasting as a time of sacrifice, restraint, and discipline. We train our bodies for our physical health, and it isn’t easy; it takes sacrifice, restraint, and discipline. In this Lenten season we train our will and our souls for our spiritual good, learning sacrifice, restraint, and discipline to improve our spiritual health. Jesus is tempted to eat, to worship someone other than God, and to test the Lord.
All these temptations and His responses are based off Jesus’ references to the book of Deuteronomy (where our first reading came from this weekend), and connect Jesus’ story to the story of Israel. The difference between the story of Israel and Jesus is that in all these temptations, Israel failed and was unfaithful. Here in all these temptations, Jesus succeeds and remained faithful. Jesus is going into the desert to show us the model of faithfulness in the face of temptation and that it is possible. Jesus goes in the desert to fulfill faithfully the unfaithfulness of Israel, as Jesus is the new Israel. In Jesus the new Israel, we His body, are the chosen people.
So, this Lenten season, go into the desert led by the Spirit following the example of Jesus, and remain faithful. To help you, go back to the first reading, and remind yourself all the wonders and signs that God has worked in your midst, and how He led you out of slavery – out of your sins – and to true freedom to bring us to the Land that is promised. We experience that promised land every time we come to Mass and peer through the veil into the promised land of heaven. Lent prepares us now for worthy reception of the Eucharist, which leads us out of the desert into our salvation in heaven.
Thank you for your prayers for my friend and classmate in the Ukraine. Our parish helped him to get his family out of Kiev. His gratitude is beyond measure. The fear they were living in was unimaginable. Please continue to pray for him as he returns to care for his parish and people.
Please pray for the mother of our Fr. Rafal Pyrchla. She lives in Poland, and this last Wednesday she had a stroke. As of writing this, I have little details on her condition or severity of the stroke, but I know that he would greatly appreciate your prayers for her and for him being so far from her in this moment.
Lastly, I know there has been confusion about the parish mission dates. Fr. Joseph Tuscan, OFM Cap, will be here April 9–12. April 9/10 he will preach at all the masses to begin his mission. April 10–11–12 in the evenings will be his continued mission presentations. Please keep those evenings free and know that this will be a wonderful opportunity to grow in our faith as a parish community from the work of this Franciscan Friar.
-Rev. Steven Arisman