Photo illustration by Phil Younk
Click on the photo for a printable PDF!

Retreat to your own ‘desert’ this Lent

Based on the Gospel of Mark 1:12-15

Triumph in the desert wilderness. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus goes into the desert for 40 days to pray to his Father and to fast (eating little or nothing) before he begins his public ministry of teaching, calling people to repentance and belief in the Good News.

Mark’s version of this Gospel about Jesus’ temptations in the desert is much shorter and less detailed than the versions according to Matthew 4 and Luke 4. The Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the desert. There he is tested by Satan, but protected by God the Father through his angels. Mark’s short Gospel verses simply say Jesus passed the test and is ready to begin his ministry of teaching, forgiving, healing and proclaiming the Good News of God’s love for everyone.

This past Wednesday (Ash Wednesday) we began the season of Lent – 40 days to prepare our hearts for Jesus and the glorious feast of Easter and Jesus’ Resurrection to preserve life in heaven for us – time for more prayer, changes in mind and heart, growth in learning about Jesus, fasting, abstinence, sacrifice and unselfishly sharing Jesus’ love with others.

Prayer: Pray the rosary. Pray the Stations of the Cross. Say thank you to God for his many blessings. Pray for others. Go to confession.

Learning about Jesus: Spend time each day reading the Bible to learn about Jesus’ teaching, his miracles, his apostles and the early church. Read about the lives of the saints and what they did to follow Jesus.

Sacrifice, sharing and silence: Avoid television for one day each week, or even for a whole week, and spend quality family time together. Abstain from using all your electronic gadgets often during Lent. Donate some of your allowance to help stock your parish food pantry for the needy. Donate gently used clothing to your parish clothing drive. 

Make your own symbolic desert by putting some sand and small rocks in a bowl and placing it in your prayer space at home. During Lent spend more quiet time with Jesus in your “desert” prayer space.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his Lenten message for 2012 based on St. Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews, calls us to be concerned for others, which means wanting what is good physically, morally and spiritually for one’s neighbor. “In a world which demands of Christians a renewed witness of love and fidelity to the Lord, may all of us feel the urgent need to anticipate one another in charity, service and good works” (cf. Heb 6:10).