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Reflection on the First Sunday of Lent

Posted on February 18, 2024, by Agnes Ann Schum SL

Genesis 9:8-15 1 Peter 3:18-22 Mark 1:12-15

Today is the first Sunday of Lent.  So, my question to you is: How has your attitude toward Lent changed throughout your life?  For me, in my very early life it was always a time to appear more pious, go to church more often and, of course, give up something, usually candy.  Times and attitudes have changed.  Yes, Lent is a liturgical season of preparation leading us to Easter, but it is more than that.  During these 40 days, we are encouraged to journey into the desert with Jesus, but it shouldn’t be an annual ordeal during which we begrudgingly forgo a handful of pleasures. 

Jesus went out to the desert shortly after He was baptized and before He sought out his disciples to join Him in his ministry. The mystery of Jesus in the desert is just that – a mystery.  Mark’s Gospel, unlike the other two synoptic Gospels, gives us very few details of the temptations Jesus experienced in the desert, much less their meaning. Mark tells us the Spirit led Jesus to the desert, he spent 40 days, he was tempted, he was accompanied by wild animals, and angels tended to his needs. That’s it! Some biblical scholars speculate that this had to happen so that Jesus could be subjected to all the risks and threats of what it meant to be human.

I have come to understand that having a desert experience of our own is not necessarily a negative thing. In today’s world, going to a desolate land might mean going on retreat, turning off the noise of the television, taking time away from all the electronic noise and distractions that might come between us and God. It is an opportunity to rid our lives of all kinds of clutter (material and mental) so that we can focus on what is truly important – living simply enough so that we can hear God’s voice and find joy, peace and contentment with who we are. Having our own desert experience is also about taking a good look in the mirror and not hiding from what we see that scares us – our shortcomings, the things we meant to say and do, but didn’t and turning all to God. The desert is not so much a place, but more of an internal journey leading to new insights into our own inner strengths, our own changes of attitude and our own outlook on life.

No, we need not seek out the nearest desert or think to pitch a tent in our woods, but perhaps we can look upon these days of Lent as a gift – a time for deep prayer, quiet solitude and introspection. 

Melannie Svoboda SND, who will lead our retreat here at the Motherhouse in September, says, “The wilderness can be a scary place where we are not in charge, where we do a lot of waiting, where we experience loneliness. But it can also be a place where, like Jesus, we encounter God in a new and life-changing way. For God is always with us, even in the desert. It is the place where God does some of God’s most creative and beautiful work!”

I want to close my reflection by sharing Pope Francis’ encouraging words of wisdom for us this Lent:


Fast from hurting words and say kind words

Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude

Fast from anger and be filled with patience

Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope

Fast from worries and have trust in God

Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity

Fast from pressures and be prayerful

Fast from bitterness and fill your heart with joy

Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others

Fast from grudges and be reconciled

Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.


Agnes Ann Schum SL

Agnes Ann , who resides at Loretto Motherhouse in Nerinx, Ky., is a member of the Motherhouse’s pastoral community care team.