Sunday, Feb. 18, is the First Sunday of Lent (Year B). Mass Readings: Genesis 9:8-15; Psalm 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:12-15

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for 40 days, tempted by Satan.

The Holy Spirit drives Jesus into the desert. Images of the desert that come to mind may be a very hot, arid and perhaps lonely place. We are invited to be “driven” by the Holy Spirit into the desert these 40 days with Jesus.

The Holy Spirit will be our retreat master.

Pray that Lent may be the best Lent of your life. Come Holy Spirit, come!

The desert is not known for having fertile soil. It is sometimes rocky and hard. In some places, the majority of the landscape of the desert is sand. It’s not exactly the best place to cultivate soil for growing food.

This can be the disposition of our soul with the Lord.

Have you ever had a serious conversation with the Lord about the condition of your soul? Many of us waste so much time in useless and non-productive conversation. 

Lent is the time to let the Holy Spirit dig deep! And not just at surface level either, but very deep. It’s a time to come face-to-face with Jesus. 

Let’s ask ourselves:

  • Does my life look like His life?
  • If someone were to look at my life from the outside, would it resemble the life of Christ?
  • If you were to honestly access the condition of your soul, what is the diagnosis?
  • What obstacles are in the way that may be preventing you from embracing the Lord?

Those are some deep questions!

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God. “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”

Repent, and believe.

These are two actions necessary for being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Why repent first and then believe? Can’t I believe and then once I believe I will repent?  These are great questions and probably questions that we have struggled with and have had other people share with us in the course of our lives. 

Coming face-to-face with the God-Man, Jesus Christ, brings so many of these types of questions to the surface.

Why repent first? Very simply, sin places obstacles to our ability to believe and to our capacity to adhere to the truth. If a window is full of mud on the outside and full of years of dust and dirt on the inside, until it is cleaned thoroughly, will anyone be able to see clearly through it?

Likewise, sin is an obstacle to perceive and to adhere to the truth.

Christians throughout the ages have given witness to this: Repentance paves the way for faith.  St. Teresa of Avila would assert that every time we pray and enter into dialogue with the Lord, we first should ask the Holy Spirit to guide us and ask for the grace of repentance.

May we repent — turn away from sin and selfishness and turn toward, believe and adhere more closely to Jesus Christ our Lord and God!

Father John Paul Mary Zeller, MFVA is a member of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word and resides in Irondale, Alabama, the home of EWTN.

He is the vocation director and co-host of Life on the Rock.

He was commissioned a “missionary of mercy” by Pope Francis in 2016.