Lent is a time of grace during which the Church invites all her children to prepare to better understand and receive the meaning and the fruits of the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the mystery of His Passion, Death and Resurrection: “The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favour from the LORD” (Isa 61:1-2). The ‘time of grace’ is the time when God the Father, in His infinite mercy, bestows upon all people of good will, through the Holy Spirit, all the spiritual and material benefits that may help them to make progress in their journey towards Christian perfection, which makes us strive to become totally and completely like the Son: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:28-29). In order for this to be possible, He wants to dwell in our life, and even more so He wishes for us to be transfigured to the point that, we could say, those who see us can glimpse – in our thoughts and actions – the traits of Jesus: “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God” (Gal 2:19-21).
The episode of the baptism in the Jordan River (Mt 3:13-17; Mk 1:9-11; Lk 3:21-22; Jn 1:29-32), followed by the experience of forty days in the desert “to be tempted by the devil” (Mt 4:1), invites us to think that in order to walk securely along the path to holiness and to gather the fruits of the treasures of graces bestowed by the Spirit we must conquer a receptiveness and a fertility that is not a given but, on the contrary, is constantly threatened by the wound of sin, and must be conquered day after day. The penitential commitment, therefore, does not, in and of itself, guarantee our salvation, but it is nevertheless an essential condition in order for it to be attained: “You have no need of our praise, yet our thanksgiving is itself your gift, since our praises add nothing to your greatness but profit us for salvation, through Christ our Lord” (Roman Missal, Common Preface IV). God Himself contributes, through the difficulties of human existence (which He intentionally did not want to spare His beloved Son), to the necessary purification of our mind, will and actions for our greater good: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit” (Jn 15:1).