The holy season of Lent is often welcomed only reluctantly by the weakness of our fallen human nature. We balk at the idea of allowing ourselves to be purified by the Holy Spirit because we know that it will be painful. We know that it will hurt because we are attached to many false loves and have not yet learned to find our true happiness in one true love of the human heart: love for God above all things.
Lent is the time for us to cooperate more actively and consciously with God’s ardent desire to have us fall deeply in love with Him. This has to be the soul of our penitential practices during these Forty Days. Whatever extra prayer time we take with the Lord; whatever extra self-denial we impose on ourselves in fasting; whatever extra alms that we give to the poor – all of these actions must have as their sole motivation and spirit our growth in love for God, Who is pure Goodness and our true Happiness.
In our gospel today, the Church proclaims the threefold temptation of Christ. In His temptation, which is presented to His most pure human nature externally by Satan, Our Lord conquers definitively and in His own Person the threefold snare of our fallen state: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. In this way, the Lord accomplishes for us the basic task of Lent. Our job is to plug in to His own victory over temptation by prayer and the sacraments and our other good works. We cannot lose sight of this Christ-centered dimension of Lent. He has already lived Lent for us. It’s ours to receive the treasure of true happiness that He offers.
The dying to our false loves that happens during Lent is a preparation for the joy of true love that we affirm especially intensely at Easter. This is the basic movement of the next 90+ days of our lives. We are called to die during Lent so that we can rise at Easter. As we keep our eyes and our hearts on Christ during Lent, we are given a mysterious joy even in our suffering and self-denial. We are able to receive from His Sacred Heart the beginnings of the Easter victory even in the midst of the Lenten dying.
On this first Sunday of Lent, let us ask Our Lord to teach us to allow God to purify our love. Let us ask Him to stay close to us in the desert, to be near us, to protect us, to strengthen and console us. Lord Jesus, Who suffered for me already all that I will ever suffer in this life, teach my heart to love You above all things, so that I can live even now the true happiness of the Resurrection in Heaven.
Yours in the Lord,
Fr. Joseph Previtali