Lent Invites Us to Join Jesus in the Desert

By Dr. Gilberto Hinojosa, professor emeritus

Lent invites us to join Jesus in the desert.

But what about that good old Catholic school refrain: “What should I give up for Lent?”?  Is it on its way out?

In some way, that would be good because it was simplistic.  After all, giving up ice cream, sodas, or Girl Scout Cookies does not automatically make us better persons.  In fact, few of those Lenten denials turned into permanent good habits.  And to be honest, no one really suffered from those “sacrifices.”

But wait!  Giving up something was a good reminder that Lent is a special season.

Dr. Gilberto Hinojosa reflects on the sacrifice of Lent and “walking in the desert.”

We need reminders that we need spend time in the “desert.”  Lent is supposed to pull us away from our daily routines and draw us into the mysteries of the life of God in us and among us.

Being in the desert involves solitude, being alone, away from distractions.

In today’s terms, it might mean shutting down the cell phone, the tablet, or the laptop, getting away from constantly being in touch with others, and getting ourselves away from the world of entertainment.

I sometimes check my phone in the car on my way to work or home, sometimes while running an errand, or while waiting for the traffic light to change.  Now, technically I am not driving, but it’s still pretty silly that I need to be aware, at all times, of any emails or earth-shaking newsbreaks.  This is reflective of the habit of cluttering up my life.

I have, however, developed a habit of some quiet, “desert” moments during the day.  But they are brief and, to be honest, they are only a couple – as in two.

Will giving up my favorite something – having a delicious fish dinner on Lenten Fridays is no sacrifice! – change my life?  It should at least push me into a few more minutes of being alone with myself and with my God.

UIW Blog Lent is a Journey

Lent is a Journey

By Dr. Gilberto Hinojosa, professor emeritus

Lent is a journey to Holy Week.

It is a season of anticipation of the celebration of the central mystery of our faith: Christ’s death and resurrection. In some way, Lent is like the Gospels, all of which are, according to some scholars, long introductions to the core story of the passion, death, and resurrection of the Lord.

So, Lent is a season of traveling along a long road. In our time, it may appear too long.

Dr. Gilberto Hinojosa reflects on the importance of the long Lenten wait.

We go quickly from one sports season to another, from one popular celebration to another, and indeed from one news cycle to another. In the past, Lent always seemed very long to me. Nowadays it seems even longer.

Yet, we are told, the ending – Holy Week – is worth waiting for.

Jesus’s journey of his death and resurrection entailed working his way through his ministry of teaching and healing. And he began that stretch of the journey by going into the desert.

In the desert he prayed and fasted – and he waited, something we have trouble doing today.  Lent seems long precisely because for us – or at least, for me – waiting is burdensome.

Waiting in Lent is difficult, in part, because we already know the ending. But this waiting is not about twiddling our thumbs in anticipation of something to happen. This waiting is about reflection and prayer.

Lent is, of course, also about doing something: changing life habits and helping others, particularly those in need. But even that involves reflection and prayer. We cannot change our lives and our relationships with others unless we change our relationship to our true, inner self and to God.

And reflection and prayer means taking some moments away from the hustle and bustle of everyday obligations and distractions. This entails listening to the Spirit of God.

One homilist at the beginning of Lent called attention to why Jesus went into the desert. One of the gospels, he reminded us, says the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert. Another says the Spirit led Jesus into the desert. And a third says Jesus, filled with the Spirit, went into the desert.

We have received the Spirit of God at baptism and that same Spirit drives us, leads us, and inspires us to take some time each day in the desert of silence and reflection. Without time to ponder on our relationship with God, the celebration of Good Friday and Easter Sunday will surely fly right past us.