From the Pastor – February 22, 2015

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.  (Mk. 1-12)

I always look forward to Lent.  And this year is no exception.  Now that Lent is here, I’m happy to create my own little desert of calm by the Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  It’s the perfect remedy for the last two weeks of noise, feasting and excess.

One of the good disciplines of Lent is “giving something up.”  When I was in seminary, I remember my rector publicly acknowledging that he gave up cigars during Lent.  And then one Friday in Lent, I walked by his room and smelled cigar smoke.  The next day I asked him about it, and he said that he decided to do something different that year because he felt like everyone knew he gave up cigars.  He felt like he was doing it for the “crowd” rather than God.

The truth is that I’m not sure that it was necessarily a “bad” thing that people knew about it.   Today in the Gospel we hear about the 40 day fast of Jesus.  The only way that St. Mark the Evangelist would have known to write about Jesus’ fast is if Jesus had told someone about it!  Think about it:  no one was there when Christ fasted; He must have opened up his heart to tell them a little about this important moment in His hidden life.  Sharing pain can help with healing, sharing joy can bring joy, and sharing penance can give strength.  Jesus shared this story to tell us that He was tempted and He overcame.  And filled with the same Holy Spirit as Jesus, we can overcome the temptations of the world so as to focus on the reward of heaven.

People often ask me what I’m giving up for Lent.  My usual practice is to give up meat and alcohol, which for me is primarily red wine.  And I don’t mind telling people, so that it’s not a surprise when they offer me a glass of wine during Lent.  But I’m sure that Jesus had some secrets that were between him and His Heavenly Father.  They were part of the “Divine Conversation” between them.  This year I also decided to do the same – to give up something that’s just between God and me.  It’s not a big thing, but it’s part of my intimacy with Him in prayer.  I want to empty myself just a little more, so that I can be filled with Him.

(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty