By Most Reverend Alberto Rojas
Dear friends, peace and wellbeing to you and to your families.
It’s Lent again! Wow…how fast we go through time even with a pandemic; I feel like I just took down my Christmas decorations a few days ago! Life is too short, so we have to live it well and enjoy it! This is why we get this opportunity of a Lenten season once again, to reflect, look at our hearts and minds, what is in there? What do we carry inside? It is a great opportunity to repent and change, a time to allow real life inside of us again; a time to renew ourselves and get the fullness of life that was meant for us from the beginning of creation when God created us in His own image and likeness as His children. It’s a time to do more praying, some fasting, and some almsgiving; that’s what we do in Lent.
But, what is Lent? Well, the Latin word for Lent is Quadragesima, and in Spanish is Cuaresma, both of these words mean 40, for the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert, praying and fasting in preparation for his public ministry to save us. The English word Lent is a shortened form of the old English word Lencten, meaning spring season. And this is really what is expected to happen at the end of Lent, as we reflect on the passion of Jesus, his Resurrection is like the springtime when nature blooms and new life comes back. When we repent, we look for a sincere cleansing from our sins and a commitment to change, and that’s when we are forgiven as we go for confession and are restored to life in Christ again.
Therefore, we began our Lenten season with Ash Wednesday, a traditional penance service where we received the ashes as a sign of our sinfulness and our desire to change. When we received the ashes we were told, “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.” Or, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” We are reminded that sooner or later we will die, and our bodies will return to dust again; and that’s OK, but we don’t want to lose our souls.
That’s why the Prophet Joel tells us in the readings for Ash Wednesday, “Rend your hearts and not your clothing, and return to the Lord, your God.”(Joel 2:13) And with Psalm 51 we pray, “Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.” And Saint Paul advises us to, “be reconciled to God; behold now is the acceptable time. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.”(2Cor.5:20-6:2). And Jesus invites us to have a personal encounter with him in prayer, to show us how to heal instead of kill, how to edify instead of destroy, how to love instead of hate, how to be communion instead of division, how to live better lives instead of longing for more.
Jesus was tempted by the devil in the desert with the same three temptations Adam and Eve were tempted with at the Garden of Eden. And the devil continues to tempt us, all the time, with these same three temptations: overindulging or gluttony, pride, and greed. When Jesus was hungry in the desert the devil told him to turn some rocks into bread and eat. And at the garden, the devil told Adam and Eve, “don’t worry, just go ahead and eat this delicious fruit.” There you go, it was all about overindulging, according to the devil.
Then he took Jesus to the top of the temple and told him to throw himself down because Jesus was powerful, and he could just call his angels to save him. And at the garden, the devil told Adam and Eve, “if you eat this fruit, you’ll be like gods.” Sure, it was all about pride. Then the devil told Adam and Eve, “just eat the fruit and you will know everything.” And to Jesus the devil took him to the top of a mountain and told him he would give him everything he could see if Jesus prostrated and adored him. It was all about greed.
The devil continues to tempt all of us the same way. This is why the Church recommends that at least during Lent, we practice these three spiritual things that counteract or go against those three temptations of the devil. This is what Jesus did in the desert to overcome the devil’s temptations: to counteract gluttony Jesus did fasting, so we do fasting on Fridays of Lent; to counteract pride, Jesus prayed, so we pray more every day; to counteract greed, Jesus gave himself up on the Cross to save us. So, we do almsgiving, we do some charity and service, we give away, especially to the poor.
So, dear friends, at the end of Lent, when you celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, ask yourselves these questions: Did I grow spiritually and as a person? Or, did I just put things on hold for 40 days? Now is the time for you to choose what type of Lent you want to experience. You can become a new person, resurrect and grow in Christ Jesus. Or, you can skip this wonderful opportunity for growth and remain the same old. Choose wisely! I will keep you in my prayers. Thank you for reading, and may God bless you.