Lent is a pilgrim journey which we undertake with our eyes fixed on Easter – in the early Church it was a time of intense preparation for those preparing for Baptism. So too for us the Liturgy prepares us for the renewal of our Baptismal vows at the Easter Vigil – when we renounce Satan and sin and profess our faith anew in the One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We do not embark on this journey as isolated individuals but as Church, as the People of God.

On this first Sunday of Lent (Cycle B) we read in the Gospel of Mark that the ‘Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness’. If our Lenten discipline is to be fruitful we too must be led by the Spirit who attunes our inmost ear to the still small whisper of God’s voice. We too are being led by the Spirit into the wilderness – not a physical wilderness but the wilderness of our own hearts and lives where we meet the ‘wild beasts’ of our sin and selfishness. We hear Jesus inviting us to “Repent and believe the Good News”. The ‘Good News’ is all that God has accomplished for us in Christ Jesus.

To quote Pope Benedict “denying ourselves material food, which nourishes our body, nurtures an interior disposition to listen to Christ and be fed by His saving word. Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God.”

We are all in need of a radical conversion but this conversion in itself is not something we achieve by our own effort – rather it is a response to God’s love. When we come to know and experience God’s personal love for each of us we are enabled to put ourselves into His loving hands with absolute trust. This opens the way to real freedom, joy and peace. It means that I embrace in every situation the loving purpose of God in my regard. I learn to say with greater sincerity: ‘I abandon myself into your hands with boundless confidence because you are my Father’.

Immediately before being driven by the Spirit into the wilderness Jesus hears the Father’s voice at His Baptism affirming “This is my beloved Son, my favour rests on Him.” No doubt He was aware that he was carried in His Father’s arms during his time in the wilderness and therefore He was able ‘to stay there’ and emerge victorious in the face of Satan’s temptations. The ultimate goal of fasting is to help each one of us, to make the complete gift of self to God.