First Sunday of Lent
Jesus was hungry. In the Gospel today, we are reminded of the humanity of Jesus. He fasted for forty days and nights in the wilderness and was hungry at the end of it.
In many different traditions, fasting and being attentive to the Holy is a spiritual practice, especially when discerning the path ahead or as part of a ritual separating childhood from adulthood. As Christians, there are particular days during Lent where we are asked to fast. For Muslims, the season of Ramadan is a time of fasting. Other religious traditions have times of fasting as well. These provide opportunities to not just focus on hunger, but on meaning, desire and what is truly necessary in our lives. When we, as Catholics, fast, it is to remind us of what we are truly hungering for: God. It is also a time for those of us living in places of privilege to live in solidarity with those in other parts of the world. As you fast, consider giving the money you would have spent on meals to Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl, so as to provide food and necessities to others throughout the world who are struggling to survive on a daily basis.
As part of formation for religious life, men and women participate in a canonical novitiate. This is a year of intense prayer and study, in some ways separated from standard life, in preparation for living religious life with ministry commitments. Some religious participate in a 30 day silent retreat before vows. These preparations are similar to the experience of Jesus, who took 40 days before beginning his active ministry. That being said, time away is not just for Jesus and vowed religious. Lent is a time for all Catholics to get away. Through Lenten commitments, one can get away from something that may distract them from God. Maybe this means taking a retreat day during Lent or fasting from email or Netflix for a few hours each day. As most of us are in the midst of our own ministry, whether that is work or study, what might it be a preparation for? For us, the fasting helps us to prepare for truly living our ministry in an Easter season. Clarifying what is necessary and helpful in our daily lives helps us to be truly alive in Christ.
As we take time for prayer, fasting and almsgiving, we engage in the very real and human aspects of the life of Jesus. Just like each of us, he was tempted to take the easy way out. He was hungry and could have just turned stones to bread but, instead, used his knowledge, wisdom and prayerful experience to do the right thing. He was supported by the community of angels in the process. This Lent, may we be supported by, and supportive of, each other as we live simply, live justly and live prayerfully.
Sr. Jenn Schaaf, OP