Today’s Gospel (Luke 4:1-13) introduces us to the great mystery of Jesus, Son of God, spending 40 days in the wilderness – fasting and praying and being tempted by Satan. St Luke tells us that Jesus is filled with the Spirit and is led by the Spirit through this wilderness experience.

All of us experience in our own lives, in one way or another, the wilderness and bewilderment.

The following is a quote from Pope Benedict’s homily on Ash Wednesday when he, according to custom, celebrated the Eucharist in the Dominican Basilica of Santa Sabina:

………To go into the desert and to stay there a long time, alone, meant to be willingly exposed to the assaults of the enemy, the tempter who made Adam fall and through whose envy death entered the world (cf Wisdom 2:24); it meant engaging in open battle with him, defying him with no other weapons than limitless confidence in the omnipotent love of the Father. Your love suffices me, my food is to do your will (cf John 4:34): This conviction dwelt in the mind and heart of Jesus during that “Lent” of his. It was not an act of pride, a titanic enterprise, but a decision of humility, consistent with the Incarnation and the Baptism in the Jordan, in the same line of obedience to the merciful love of the Father, who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16).

The Lord did all this for us. He did it to save us and, at the same time, to show us the way to follow him. Salvation, in fact, is a gift, it is God’s grace, but to have effect in my existence it requires my consent, an acceptance demonstrated in deeds, that is, in the will to live like Jesus, to walk after him………..He, as always, has preceded us and has already conquered in the battle against the spirit of evil. This is the meaning of Lent, liturgical time that every year invites us to renew the choice to follow Christ on the path of humility to participate in his victory over sin and death.

Understood in this perspective also is the penitential sign of the ashes, which are imposed on the head of those who begin with good will the Lenten journey. It is essentially a gesture of humility, which means: I recognize myself for what I am, a frail creature, made of earth and destined to the earth, but also made in the image of God and destined to him. Dust, yes, but loved, moulded by love, animated by his vital breath, capable of recognising his voice and of responding to him; free and, because of this, also capable of disobeying him, yielding to the temptation of pride and self-sufficiency. This is sin, the mortal sickness that soon entered to contaminate the blessed earth that is the human being. Created in the image of the Holy and Righteous One, man lost his own innocence and he can now return to be righteous only thanks to the righteousness of God, the righteousness of love that — as St. Paul writes — was manifested “through faith in Jesus Christ” (Romans 3:22).