Our Lord spent forty days and forty nights in the wilderness; in memory of that, many Christians take upon themselves some form of fasting or other penitential discipline. In a couple of hours I will be going to a special Mass where ashes will be used to mark our foreheads; for some of us that may well be our one concession to the season of Lent; it will be more than many will do.
We know from Scripture that whilst He was in the wilderness Our Lord was tempted by Satan. We know that He was like unto us in all things save sin, and theologians have long debated the question of whether Satan could possibly have succeeded. Our first parents, Adam and Eve must also have been without the stain of original sin, and yet they succumbed to temptation. I’d love some theologically more informed person to tell me whether, like them, it would have been possible for Our Lord to have succumbed to Satan’s wiles. At any rate, Satan clearly thought it was. If my house was not currently in the turmoil caused by decorators and carper-fitters, I’d take a couple of commentaries off my shelves; but that is not possible for the moment.
Our tendency to sin is all too obvious. For me. Lent is a time for taking myself into a wilderness to examine my conscience and my life before the great feast of Easter. One of the temptations which comes with regular confession is that of thinking that you have somehow dealt with that; but it is precisely for that reason that I need to go into the wilderness.
I need to spent more time in prayer and contemplation, but I also need to spend more time doing things. Contemplation can lead to self-absorption, and that, in itself, is a temptation. It is important to be up and doing, and I have some good things that can occupy what little spare time I have; indeed, it is the sacrifice of that spare time which is part of my Lenten offering to the Lord.
Engagement with this world is, itself, to enter into a wilderness. Everyday life is not a place where Christianity can be seen to bulk large. All the more reason, as a Christian, to ensure that during it I consciously take my faith on my daily journey; it will not be easily found unless I carry it with me.
What is easily found are the temptations. Mine are not the great ones: I have no desire to steal, murder or commit adultery, nor to covet my neighbour’s goods. Mine are those of everyday life – to ignore the Lord as I go through the day; to let the things of this world get in the way of loving God and of being with Him daily. I really can convince myself that I don’t have half an hour a day to spare. I don’t, unless I make the decision to devote it to God. I am perfectly capable of making a wilderness and calling it my daily life.
The one thing not to fast from is God.