By Fr. Jim Kelly, s.j.
1st Sunday of Lent
1st March 2020
So the season of Lent has begun. It is a ‘season’ not so much because it is a certain number of days, but because it is the appropriate time for something, the right time. The word ‘season’ comes from the Latin word for ‘sow’, as in to sow seed in the field or the garden (when the time is right). That is also the same root as to ‘season’ foods–to throw the right herbs or spices in the pot when the time is right.
Sometimes we say there are four seasons (Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall), but as these past few weeks have shown it is much more delicate than that. Consider how in February, especially in our area, we had beautiful winter weather with plenty of snow and cold temperatures. But many days the sun beat down with surprising heat. The other day I saw some people ice-fishing with no hut but just their folding chairs. They looked more like they were on the beach in July. And I heard a song-bird whose name I do not know but whose voice I recognized from last summer. I wondered if this little one knows what season it is.
Our season of Lent is a chance to imitate Jesus’ experience of going out into the desert for forty days and forty nights. Jesus, Son of God, free of sin, goes out alone into the wilderness to fast and pray. There he is tempted by the Devil himself who can offer him food, and independence, and great power over others. Why does Jesus go out into this wilderness, into this time of temptation?
And for you, really, what are you asked to do in these forty days to grow closer to Christ? The Church proposes that you: 1) Fast. Seriously, is there some food or activity that you should just cut out in this season?
2) Give Alms or give something to the poor. You have a chance to donate something to someone more in need than you. You know full-well that near where you live there is a neighbour who could well use a new set of towels or some good cooking pots. If you give in this way you have to be careful never to appear snooty with your nose in the air. You give as one friend would give to another. If it is helpful, you ask another person to give the gift from you, saying simply that “a friend asked me to give this to you.”
3) Pray. Go to Mass more often, or to prayer groups, or the Stations of the Cross when they are offered; and encourage your friend to come with you. But beyond that spend at least some private time each day during Lent in prayer. Why? Nothing more than to be present with Jesus during his forty days of prayer.