Fr. Patrick Render, CSV, reflected on the first Sunday of Lent in the bulletin of St. Viator Parish in Chicago, which he has led as pastor since 2015.

Fr. Patrick Render, CSV, with students of St. Viator Parish School

“The first Sunday’s gospel is always the story of Jesus’ 40 days in the desert before he began his public ministry. Lent is similarly a 40-day period of preparation before the celebration of Easter, which is our most important Christian feast.

“The gospel writers tell us that during Jesus’ 40 days he experienced severe temptations, temptations which are symbolic of the struggles all of us as encounter as we prepare to take on full responsibility as disciples of Jesus.

“Our temptations do not always come in sequence or within a specific period of time but they are, nevertheless, similar to the tests Jesus’ himself had to undergo. His power to resist and to see beyond the temptations are the areas where we all come up short — and where we need to purify our own hearts and minds through the various spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting and abstinence.

“Lent comes rather abruptly and so it is a hard season to get into. Even though big crowds come for ashes at the beginning of Lent, the actual spirit of the season is harder to assimilate. It usually takes me a week or two to get my thoughts together and to decide what approach to penance I want to assume.

“The usual resolution to “give up something” is not always an effective spiritual tool to open my mind or heart. Sometimes I choose to find something extra or special to do to help get me into a new frame of mind. I recommend that approach for your consideration.

“An extra work of mercy perhaps, or an extra act of kindness, an extra gesture of support or attention to someone in need, an extra period of reading each day or an extra time with nature, a healthier diet of food or drink each week, or a special period of re-creation each week – whatever helps you to shake off lethargy, to expand your thinking a bit or to lead you into some new experience can all be helpful spiritual disciplines.”