February 18, 2018
by Andy Alexander, S.J.
Creighton University's Collaborative Ministry Office
click here for photo and information about the writer

First Sunday of Lent
Lectionary: 23

Genesis 9:8-15
Psalms 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:12-15

Praying Lent
Lent Prayer for Today

The First Week of Lent - 26 min. - Text Transcript

Pope Francis on this Sunday in 2014

Beyond Chocolate: A Deeper Lent
Beginning My Lenten Patterns
The Invitation of Lent
Choosing Lent, Acting Lent
Doing Lent As A Family

After the big flood, God established a new covenant, a new promise and agreement with the people of the earth. In effect, God wipes away the past and says, "Let's begin again." I think of how that happens for us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and how we receive a fresh start, a new beginning - simply because our God wants to forgive us.

The Collect - Opening Prayer - for this First Sunday of Lent has us praying:

Grant, almighty God,
through the yearly observances of holy Lent,
that we may grow in understanding
of the riches hidden in Christ
and by worthy conduct pursue their effects.

We ask to grow in understanding. That's our goal for Lent. We desire to understand the riches hidden in Christ. And, we ask that we might pursue the effects of those riches, by worthy conduct. We can unpack this prayer and find our Lenten journey.

Jesus shows us the way in his journey into the desert. Mark tells us "The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert." Though Satan tempted Jesus, it was the Spirit who was guiding Jesus into this experience. Jesus came out of the desert, prepared by the Spirit, to encounter and face the temptations that would confront him for the rest of his life - right up to the Garden, the night before he died. It would have been tempting for him - because he so passionately wanted to bring about the coming of God's kingdom - to use his power to feed himself, to manipulate the people into accepting him, to bargain with the devil himself. Instead, Jesus understood these "battles" and placed himself in his Father's hands - "Not my will, but yours be done."

Lent is a journey in the desert for each of us. It's quieter and clearer in the desert. There are fewer distractions, fewer toys, fewer addictive behaviors, fewer arguments. There's no one to yell at in the desert but myself and the enemy. The word "temptation" has its roots in a word that means "leaning" or "tending." Our temptations are the attractions, habits, safe havens of escape for us. Going into the desert - stripping ourselves of all the noise and distractions (things that lean us or tend us in the opposite direction) - so that we can see more clearly, understand with greater focus, what we are really like - what we are really about. During Lent, we can see the fault lines, with our eye wide open. We can recognize where the battle for integrity really is, where the struggle for our best self is waged on a day to day basis. Each of us can give ourselves to concretely discovering the place where we teeter between doing what we know is right and good and loving, and responding selfishly, even with revenge and divisiveness. In the desert of Lent, those choice points become clearer and can result in our discovering riches Jesus is offering us in a life that is more whole and balanced, responsive to his grace, and full of self-sacrificing love.

What will entering the desert of Lent mean for each of us? It will have something to do with being more simple, more focused, more hungry. That's why fasting is an important part of Lent - not just on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Those are the required days for us all. Eating less can help us be less "full" of what we feed on. It's not to do "sacrifice" in itself. The desert fathers and mothers fasted to encounter hunger. And, when they were hungry, they were more open and listened with greater clarity. We may want to fast from any other "excesses" in our lives, to create a bit more "space" for insight and realization and recognition and reflection. Decompressing and uncluttering our schedules, our pace, the things that claim our anxieties, can be part of a journey in the desert for grace to happen in me. To the degree I might be saying, "I'm not coming up with anything to think about or change in me," to that extent I might need to turn the dial up on the desert part of this Lent.

Lord, this Lenten journey is so important for me. Thank you for giving me this time to become freer, to get closer to you, and to love others with your own heart. Keep showing me your love, so I can trust enough to let go of whatever it is I cling to instead of you. Let me enjoy more quiet, more space and less of the distractions, so I can begin to identify how I can better be your servant and take this time to practice new patterns and ways of being in my everyday life. Thank you for accompanying me. I know you will be generous if I am only available to receive your gifts.

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