Peace of Christ to you! The season of Lent is many things. Yes, it is a sacrifice. Yes, it is a desert journey to arrive at the joy of Easter. Yes, it is dying to self. But fundamentally, intention is the foundation upon which the entire liturgical season rests.
Jesus, after His Baptism, is driven into the desert by the suggestion of the Holy Spirit. That sentence is doing a lot of heavy lifting that can pass us by if left unpacked. The way that it’s phrased almost seems as though Jesus doesn’t have much choice in the matter. The Holy Spirit pushed Him into a new place, a new environment where there is great distress and difficulty, and Jesus responded with a “yes.”
The truth of the matter is this — it required great intention on the part of our Lord in order to say “yes.” The “yes” was not produced from coercion or persuasion. It came from Jesus’ consideration and reflection on what would be asked of Him at the beginning of His public ministry. The only way to properly reflect and prepare His heart for His job on earth was to intentionally seek a place of difficulty that would mirror His future struggles and trials. That is the importance of intention — it paves our hearts for what comes next.
The self-imposed disciplines that we practice are not primarily aimed at changing our lives because we do something new for 40 days, but that we shape our intentions specifically. To be very plain, the act of not eating chocolate for 40 days is nowhere near as important as the process of coming up with that intention, its reasons, and attempting to be faithful to it.
This process reflects the entirety of our Christian journey. We are called to be the continuation of God’s kingdom and work here on earth, and we are not judged on the quality of our work alone. We are not measured by the amount of people we evangelized or Holy Hours we prayed. In a much larger part, we are measured by the meaningfulness of our intention, our desire to live it out, and our attempt to be faithful to it. You can fail at your Lenten discipline multiple times and still have a fantastic Lent. The question will be this — how did it change your heart?