As we receive the ashes on our foreheads today as a sign of our conversion and repentance, Our Lord invites us to come with him into the desert for a time of contemplation, reflection, and preparation. Over the course of the next forty days, we have a golden opportunity to learn from Our Lord how to pray, how to grow in generosity, and how to be cleansed and set free from sin.
The best way to learn from Our Lord is not just by doing the things we see him do in the desert: fasting and spending more time in prayer; but by doing them in the same spirit that he did. Our Lord went into the desert because he wanted to please his Father and to embrace his Father’s plan with all his heart. He went into the desert knowing that he would survive only if he kept his eyes fixed on his Father and not himself; only as he allowed his Father’s love to fill him, sustain him, and give him strength.
Doing something because it’s “right” can be tricky. If our hearts are not in a position of humility and dependence on God, then it can give us nothing more than the satisfaction that we have been obedient. But when we take on Our Lord’s disposition of humble surrender, we don’t become satisfied – we become holy. Then, because we have shared in Our Lord’s passion and death, we find ourselves on Easter Sunday sharing in his victory.
Just as an athlete becomes stronger through many laborious hours of dedication and practice, we too will become stronger in our spiritual lives as we practice the activities we are called to do during Lent: self-denial through fasting; generosity through almsgiving; and prayer through emptying our hearts of selfish concerns. Now is the time to turn our obedience into acts of love. So let us join Our Lord in the desert and witness what God can do.