On Wednesday of this week, we will enter the Holy Penitential Season of Lent. This season of Lent recalls the forty years spent by the Israelite people in the desert while Moses led the way to the Promised Land. During that time, the Israelite people experienced what it meant to live in tents without a fixed home to live in. They totally lacked security. They were often tempted to return to Egypt, where at least there was a supply of bread even though it was the food of slaves. In the wilderness of the Sinai desert, God Himself provided water and food for His people. He protected them from every danger. For the Hebrews, the experience of being totally dependent on God became their path to freedom from slavery.

For us, The Lenten season is both an invitation for each one of us to grow and a challenge to change through prayer, fasting, and good works. Lent is a time of grace; not something we should dread, but rather, it is something we need to celebrate. It is a wonderful opportunity for each of us to do some “spiritual housekeeping and growth.” It’s the time to remove the plank in our eyes as we condemn the splinter in the eyes of our brothers and sisters.

We know deep down in our hearts, that there are things about each of us that need to change; and yet we resist. God’s grace quietly invites each of us to growth. Even though we are often in a spiritual rut, we become comfortable in our lifestyles. The Lord tells us: “You did not call upon Me, you grew weary of Me. You burdened Me with your sins”. In the Gospel, Jesus reminds us that He has the power to forgive sins, and He has given that power to His Church.

Our sense of urgency for renewal and deeper union with God is compounded by the struggles of today. We live under a constant threat of terrorism. Russia is at war with Ukraine. The weakening of the family unit, the deterioration of the moral fiber of our society, the killing of the unborn, and many other injustices continue to grow daily. There truly is an urgent need for the mercy and healing power of God.

Embrace this Lent as a long retreat for each one of us. This Holy season is a time for us to renew our relationship to the Lord and to His Church; knowing that in the words of Isaiah,
“God will remember our sins no longer”.

Jesus invites us at all to enter into a deeper relationship with Him so that we can find our way on this pilgrimage of life enlightened by Jesus as He leads us to the House of our Father. He invites us to seek him, to hear him, and to touch him in the Scriptures and the Sacraments. He invites us to spend time with him so that we may experience his love more deeply and it may transform the way we see our lives. We will see them as embraced, nourished, and forgiven all the time by his love.

Lent is the time when the Church invites us all to stop worrying about ourselves for a moment
and to look to him, to give him our worries, and to seek his powerful presence in our lives.
We can easily forget him during the rest of the year,
but in Lent, we are meant to let him have full reign in our lives.

We are a people on the way from the cross to the resurrection. We bring all of our anxieties, worries, and shame to him and ask him to transform them by His cross. We bring our heart to Him, asking that He convert it and change it so that we may be closer to him as we enter into the great experience of Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

If we embrace Lent, the practical things we need to do are simple. We need to pray more and spend time in Adoration with Him so that we can experience his presence more fully. We need to recognize his presence in the Holy Eucharist and receive Him more regularly in the Eucharist, and certainly, we need to take our sins to Him in the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation. If we do nothing else, we need to let him forgive us in this Sacrament during Lent.

We also need to give up things that might stand in the way of allowing Him to be the center of our lives. That might be something that we have hung on to as a way of softening our pain or guilt, rather than turning to Jesus. We need to let go of some food or drink or entertainment or practice that can be an alternative to finding the center of our life in Him. We need to look away from ourselves by reaching out to everyone we have failed since last Lent and to those we do not love enough.

Finally, the best thing we can do this Lent – better than giving up a candy bar is to look around the pews around you and see that many parishioners have not yet returned to Mass after the coved restrictions have been lifted. You know those who are not here. Call them and tell them that they are missed. We can not give God the glory that we owe Him because we are not complete without them. Invite them to come home for Lent, Holy Week, and Easter.

Taking the discipline of Lent will make us happy because we will discover that no matter how tough it is at times, Jesus’ death upon the Cross assures us that He will carry us through it. We will discover that His Resurrection tells us that no matter how much we have failed in life, Jesus will raise us up again, and this will give us the deepest joy, no matter what lies ahead.

This Lent will turn our lives upside down and enable us to discover something of the beauty and the wonder and the joy of knowing Jesus more fully. Go into the desert of Lent and let Jesus be a greater part of your life. This Lent could be your last Lent; so don’t let it slip by. May each one of us – and our entire Basilica parish be renewed through the discipline of Lent. As St. Paul said to the people of Corinth, in the second reading today: “Be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain”. Let us go joyfully into the desert of Lent