This week we begin the season of Lent, a time of spiritual renewal and preparation for the great celebration of Easter. In today's gospel, we hear the story of Jesus' temptation in the desert, and we are reminded that Lent is also a time of spiritual testing and growth.
Jesus is led by the Spirit into the desert, where he fasts for forty days and nights. He is hungry and weak, and it is then that the devil comes to tempt him. The devil offers Jesus food, power, and fame, but Jesus resists each temptation.
This story is a powerful reminder of the spiritual battles we face in our own lives. Just as Jesus was tested in the desert, we too are tested in our daily lives, whether it be through temptation, doubt, or fear. But as we begin this season of Lent, we are called to follow Jesus' example and resist the devil's temptations.
In case you don’t know I am a huge fan of Rush. For those of you who may not be familiar, Rush was a Canadian rock band known for great songs like “Tom Sawyer”, “Close to the Heart”, and “Limelight”.
At the heart of Rush's sound was their drummer, Neil Peart. Peart was widely regarded as one of the greatest drummers of all time, and he has inspired countless musicians around the world.
Yet, late in his career he decided to go back to drumming school. Why would a drummer who is considered to be one of the greatest of all time would want to go back to drumming school?
Well, Peart felt that he had reached a plateau in his drumming and wanted to improve his skills. So, he took jazz drumming lessons to expand his musical vocabulary and challenge himself.
Peart studied with Freddie Gruber, a renowned jazz drummer and teacher, who helped him refine his technique and develop a deeper understanding of rhythm and timing. Gruber was known for his unorthodox teaching methods, and Peart found the experience to be both challenging and rewarding.
Peart's study of jazz drumming had a significant impact on his playing with the band as he incorporated many of the techniques and concepts he learned into his drumming.
It also gave him a renewed sense of excitement and enthusiasm for drumming again and he continued to explore new musical avenues.
Before he passed away from brain cancer in 2020 he spoke about the experience in an interview, saying: "It was like starting over again. And to a degree, it's still that way. But I'm glad to be back in that student mode. It's a great way to challenge myself."
In the same way, Lent is the time for us to “go back to school”!
Have you ever felt that your prayer life or your spiritual life has hit a plateau? Does praying feel routine, mundane and you don’t get anything out of it?
Lent is the time for us to challenge ourselves and grow spiritually. We can take time to reflect on our lives and identify areas where we need to improve, whether it be in our relationships, our prayer life, or our service to others.
We can make an extra effort to turn away from temptations that hold us back from being Christ-like people. Maybe those temptations are the same ones that Jesus struggled with: food, power and fame. Or maybe it’s something else like guilt or fear.
Instead we can focus on new spiritual practices: spending time with Jesus in daily prayer or going to mass, fasting, going to confession, the Stations of the Cross, or praying the rosary.
Just like a world renowned drummer going back to school improved his playing, our efforts to grow spiritually during Lent can have a profound impact on our lives and relationships.
As we journey through Lent, let us strive to grow in our faith and relationship with God. Let us resist the devil's temptations and embrace the challenges and opportunities for growth that this season offers.
May God bless us all during this holy season of Lent. Amen.