By Fr. Tony Fortman, C.PP.S.
So here we go! Lent is here. The fish fries, the giving up of candy and pop. These are some common ideas about our Lenten time. But Lent is a time of deep discussion with Jesus. Much of this discussion is on our own with Christ and much is God talking to us through other people. In today’s Gospel, Jesus spends 40 days in the desert. Here is the scene: “Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry.”
Jesus is spending time in deep discussion with his Father, and time in deep discussion with Satan. When we take time out for God, we can be sure that Satan will be lurking around the corner. I find that when I pray, difficulties seem to happen right away. Entering into a deeper relationship with God does not just mean peace and contentment. Sometimes, people hope to enter into relationship with God to bring peace of mind or to enter into a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self. You could call this a nirvana state of being.
I had a discussion with one of my parishioners in which we talked about our prayer lives and how prayer seems to attract problems and discouragement at the beginnings but not at the end. I know that Satan is trying to discourage me from being as one with my Lord.
If you choose to make it so, you can be sure that this Lent will be a source of inward or outward unpacking of your current relationship with Christ and others. If we are seriously entering into conversation with God, then God will ask us to change our decision-making at times. This will frustrate some of us because we have certain patterns in our daily decisions, work patterns, and relationships with others.
St. Gaspar tells us often to read the book of the crucifix. Being one with God means suffering. It also means Easter resurrection experiences. Jesus shows us that you cannot separate Christian life from the evil in our world. You cannot ignore evil if you are a Christian. You can’t avoid those things that bring discouragement. If you do, then you will not mature in your relationship with Jesus. Christianity is not about feeling good all the time. This is why the Christian walk is not for the faint-hearted.
Jesus, help me to endure my difficulties during this Lent. Jesus, I know that you have something to teach me during this time. Jesus, I don’t like surprises but I know that this time will be full of surprises and even obstacles that will not be overcome or accomplished in 40 days. Jesus, help me to recognize and accept my human weakness and vulnerability and help me press on even in my spiritual failure. Jesus, even in my failure of not fulfilling other people’s expectations and even in my failure when I give in to sin, I know you are with me and will never leave me. Amen.
Fr. Tony Fortman, C.PP.S., is the pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Glandorf, Ohio.