By Michele McGrath, Presiding Bishopric
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. -Matthew 4:1-2 NRSV
Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights. -Matthew 4:2a The Message
A GATE CALLED TRUTH
Just outside Jerusalem,
we came to a gate called Truth.
We called to the gatekeeper
to let us in.
“The latch is not on,” he replied.
“Anyone who will can enter.”
We went closer,
but seeing how great
and how heavy was the gate,
we looked for a way around.
There must be a way around.
-Ann Weems, Kneeling in Jerusalem, Westminster John Knox Press, 1992.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
This poem speaks to my secret desire to take the easy way out-to look for the all-dessert, no-exercise diet as a way to a strong, healthy body, even though I know it doesn’t work that way. Like our body’s muscles, our discipleship must be exercised regularly to stay strong.
Lent is a 40-day journey (for both the church and the individual) of reflection, soul-searching, repentance, and preparation for the restoration that takes place in Easter. There is no way around. There is no shortcut. It is not a coincidence that we hear the story of Jesus’ 40-day temptation in the wilderness during this time.
For me, fasting doesn’t just mean abstaining from food; it means stepping back from whatever I am most attached to, whatever possesses me, whatever separates me from God. St. Augustine said that God is always trying to give us good things, but our hands are too full to receive them. So to begin Lent, my first question is, “What am I holding on to right now?”
My immediate thought is, please don’t let it be my phone! Or my love of clothes! Or food! Or the way I give in to the incessant business of life and use it as an excuse for my failure to focus on what matters most.
Now we’re getting somewhere.
Jesus’ preparation allowed him to be used by God. So what might God want to accomplish through you and me, and how can we prepare ourselves for the task this Lent? While there is no way around the heavy gate, we are not alone in the lifting, for we have Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, ever with us, and the Blessings of Community provide many hands to make the work light.
God, may my deep hope align with your deep vision. Release in me anything that keeps me from freely following your Spirit. Amen.
Invitation to Spiritual Practice
Breathe deeply as you enter a time of silence. Become gently attentive to what may be restricting you from faithfully responding to the divine invitation in your life. Are there priorities, attachments, tasks, or motivations competing for your response? What does freedom for God look or feel like in you this day?
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.