This Sunday’s Gospel according to Matthew is of Christ being tempted in the desert. The forty days in the desert were Jesus’ preparation for his ministry, after he received baptism in the River Jordan from John the Baptist. Lent is the time the Church has given us to prepare for Easter.
I suggest we should avoid simply seeing Lent as a time for the exercise of spiritual “customs”. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving should follow an examination of our lives, where we look at ourselves honestly in relation to the Gospel. This will give the prayer, penances and sacrifices real meaning and make them more effective for us. We can discern how God has worked in our lives, the gifts and graces and joys that he has given us and whether we have responded in gratitude, love and reverence
We make more time for prayer each day during Lent. This is in itself a sacrifice because suddenly we seem to be able to find other things to do even if we were not too busy before!
“Lent” simply means “lengthen” in old English. It is a good thing to enjoy some brighter and warmer weather during Lent because, even as we do penance, we experience the gift of life and joy which Spring reveals. This might also remind us that penance, like any authentic Christian act, is not founded on what we do for God but on what he does for us.
When we consider the needs of others we will probably think particularly this year of the cost of living, especially hard on poorer people and also many businesses. The war in Ukraine and the earthquake in Turkiye and Syria also spring to mind. Although we may try to help materially, prayer for those in distress provides comfort and strength. “For we do not know how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words”, (Romans 8:26).