Lent is a Time for Retreat

by | Feb 14, 2024 | Lent, Spirituality

Are you prepared for a retreat? You should be. Lent is a time for us to imitate Jesus, who was baptized and went to the desert to fast for 40 days and nights, a time of preparation. The Gospel of Luke says that the Holy Spirit led Jesus out to the desert “to be tempted by the devil” (Lk 4:2). This experience prepared Jesus for everything to come, as we see in the devil’s temptations. 

In Luke’s Gospel, the devil first shows Jesus a rock and says that if he is the Son of God, then he can turn that stone into bread. Jesus resists. Then, the devil shows Jesus the kingdoms of the world and tells Jesus they can all be his if he bends the knee and worships Satan. Our Lord resists. Finally, the devil brings Jesus to the top of the Temple in Jerusalem, and he again repeats those words, “If you are the Son of God,” telling Jesus, “throw yourself down from here, for it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and: ‘With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”

I prayed with this passage during my 30-day long retreat during my novitiate in 2016. In that prayer, I recognized these temptations as a preparation for everything to come, including Jesus’s Passion and death. I recognized the words of Satan in the desert echoed the shouts of many who were at the Crucifixion, “If you are the Son of God, save yourself!” Just as Jesus would remain faithful to his last breath on the cross, he refused to grasp power when tempted by Satan. He came to serve, not to be served.

If I’m honest, I know if I were a follower of Jesus in his earthly ministry, I would have wanted Jesus to use his power. Crucifixion is a terrible thing, and I know I would have fled with Peter and the rest. I don’t understand how God’s power is made perfect through weakness, and so I want to run to strength. 

In another prayer from that long retreat, I imagined myself in the cell with Jesus on the night of his arrest. He is tired and beaten. I asked him as he lay there, chained to the wall, what he felt towards those who beat and chained him. He said, “I’m doing this for them, too.” Jesus had nothing but love in his heart, even for his oppressors. He died for them, too. 

Reflecting on these prayer experiences, I return to these scenes, hear Jesus’s words, and see him act. These prayers help us learn Jesus’s style: the way he looks at people and speaks to them, his body language, his facial expressions, the sound of his voice, the way he walks, and his compassionate gaze on the outcast. 

Jesus went out to the desert to be tempted, but that time was also a preparation for his public ministry. We, too, need to take time to do retreats to spend time alone with God. 

Saint Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises are a great way to encounter Christ through Scripture and meditations. Not everyone, however, can make the time to go to a retreat center for three days, much less thirty! A smartphone app makes it possible to do a retreat at home. It’s called Cloisters Ignatian Prayer, and it’s available on iOS and Android devices.

Like St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises, the app retreat is divided into four weeks. Each week has three “lessons,” consisting of guidance on entering into prayer and a lesson from a Jesuit priest. Each talk is between 20-30 minutes. Along with the video, Cloisters provides a grace to pray for after that talk, which is typical of the Exercises. It also gives the user Scripture suggestions as well as reflection questions. 

Overall, Cloisters Ignatian Prayer offers users everything they need to retreat from home if they make time to do it, which turns us back to the importance of Lent. These next forty days and nights are the liturgical season in which we, followers of Christ, are called to imitate our Lord in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. 

Whether you use this or another app, or no app whatsoever, I hope we all add more prayer to our daily schedule. There is an endless amount of important events calling our attention these days. We can adequately understand all these important events only if we are in touch with Christ. This Lent, take time with our Lord, and then go out and imitate what you’ve seen and heard in prayer. 

Photo by Nathan McBride