Though Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, it is one of the most attended liturgical celebrations on our Church calendar. Perhaps this speaks to the desire in our hearts to have a fruitful and transformative Lent each year. These forty days honor and imitate Jesus’ forty days in the desert that immediately followed His baptism and just prior to the beginning of His public ministry. Jesus’ forty days were a time of fasting and prayer, followed by His subjecting Himself to the evil one’s every temptation. These temptations are the same temptations we endure, which is why our Lord endured them while in a physical state of extreme hunger and isolation.
As we begin our Lenten journeys, it is customary to give something up, fast, abstain from meat today and on Fridays, spend extra time in prayer, and increase our acts of charity. These meditations will take you, one step at a time, to be with our Lord in the desert so that you can more fervently fulfill these Lenten duties in imitation of Him. You will ponder what Jesus went through during those days, feel what He felt, experience what He experienced, imitate His actions, fast with Him, pray with Him, and face the temptations that He faced and overcame.
On this Ash Wednesday, begin by spending time pondering the “big picture” so that in the coming days you can focus on every detail of Jesus’ time in the desert. Reflect upon the general idea that Jesus, the Son of God, took on human nature. Then, at the appointed time, He freely chose to enter a period of self-imposed hunger, heat, isolation, struggle, and temptation. Though it would take a lifetime, and on into eternity, to fully grasp the fruitfulness of His forty days, commit yourself to the journey. Resolve to be open. Resolve to do whatever is necessary to spend time with our Lord in the desert. Know that this journey will not be easy, and it will not likely be pleasant, but it is necessary and will be exceptionally fruitful when lived right and well. Embrace this Lent as if it were the first and only time you had the opportunity to be with our Lord in the desert to prepare for the mission God has given you.
My divine Lord, You freely chose to enter the desert for a time of prayer, fasting, and temptation. Your willing embrace of this moment in Your life is also an invitation to me to journey with You. As I begin this Lent, I firmly resolve to follow You into the desert. I resolve to endure a time of sacrifice, penance, and prayer. May I accompany You on Your journey to understand what You understood, endure what You endured, face what You faced, and overcome all that You overcame. Though I approach these forty days with a certain reluctance, please give me the courage to do what is necessary to make this a truly fruitful Lent. Jesus, I trust in You.