I love the image of Jesus going into the desert.
He was about to begin his public ministry - to embark on the road that would lead him, ultimately, to his passion, death, and resurrection - and he took time to prepare.
The desert is a place where you are separated from civilization - it's distractions as well as its comforts. It is a place to be alone, with yourself and with God. In the desert, everything is stripped down to the essential: survival is what matters and anything that you don't need should be abandoned.
Jesus entered the desert to prepare for his mission. We enter the desert of Lent to prepare ourselves to celebrate what he did.
In just over a month, we will remember and celebrate the most important events of our faith. It is precisely because of Jesus' passion, death, and resurrection that we call ourselves Christians. As much as the world would like to label Jesus as just a good teacher, without these central mysteries - without his sacrifice and rising from the dead - the message of Jesus is meaningless.
And so we go into the desert of Lent.
We go in, knowing that we are not perfect; that we do things that hurt our relationship with God and with other people. We enter this season incomplete. There are parts of ourselves that we haven't given to the Lord.
As baptized Catholics, we all have a relationship with God. We've been adopted and freed from original sin. Unfortunately, none of us stay that way. We give in to temptation and reject the God who has welcomed us into his family.
Lent is a time to go back to the innocence of baptism. It's a time to start again.
In our first and second readings, we heard about the flood and how Noah represented a new start for humanity. Baptism is the flood that has freed us from sin and given us a new beginning with God. And even though we have, in big ways and little ways, turned away from that gift, we always have the chance to turn back.
That's what we can experience in this Lent.
Don't just use it as a time for self-improvement - do something that will join you closer to God.
The Church has always recommended prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as the "basics" for how to have a good Lent. If we increase those three things with the intention of focusing on our relationship with God, we will come to Easter with a deeper faith and an experience of God's love.
We also usually pick something to give up - a sacrifice. Whatever that thing is, do it with an intention of love. Give up that good thing to remind yourself of the Truly Good Thing - God. Even offer it as a sacrifice for someone else so that you can share the love of God.
Lent is our yearly opportunity to take stock of where we are spiritually and then focus on that for a period of time.
We all have room to grow and Lent is a gift given to us by God so that, together, we can seize that chance.