Every year, Lent begins with the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness as he begins his public ministry. Mark’s gospel version is sparse in description, few words to describe what happens. The first sentence is elemental if not powerful, “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.” Before beginning his public ministry Jesus is tested, submits to the test to prepare for his days of ministry in the same way the Israelites were tested for forty years before Moses led them to the promised land. Similarly, Noah was tested for forty days afloat on the flood waters. But under the protection of God’s angels, Jesus has survived the test, proving he is ready for announcing the reign of God. As we enter the forty days of Lent, we can challenge ourselves to embrace the spiritual tests we are facing, transforming them – and ourselves – as we journey towards Easter.
Ash Wednesday set the tone, inviting us to give alms, pray and fast in a way that changes our daily rhythms and patterns, so that by the end of Lent, we develop a slightly new way of being, developing our spiritual life and daily practices to be mindful others, e.g. those in Iraq, Haiti, Malawi, Burkina Faso and the United States through Catholic Relief Service, annual Operation Rice Bowl.
Each week we can prepare a meatless meal from a recipe on the Rice Bowl calendar, learn about one of the five countries featured this year and a particular aspect of that country. In Haiti, Andrise a teacher is learning new ways to motivate her students, new methods to improve literacy among her students through song, dance and poetry. And unlike before, every student has books of their own. How much we take education for granted. In a poor country “a good education doesn’t just benefit the student – it benefits the community, making home a safer, more inclusive place.”
Let us take advantage of Operation Rice Bowl this year to fast in a better way, give alms to benefit the poorest of the poor and pray by using the prayers, employing the recipes on the calendar and the prayer thought for each day. Let us have a blessed Lent, and live Lent. Blessings, Father Larry Hendel