For me, Lent is a time to savour the Sunday Gospels. The Lenten Sunday Gospels are key texts of the Evangelists.
In Cycle A, chosen for the preparation of catechumens, we read in John’s Gospel Jesus’ great discourses and signs.
In Cycle B, we come to see Jesus, as the everlasting temple, our home, and the crucified one who leads us there.
In Cycle C, Luke and John call us to conversion, to turning to Jesus as our salvation.
On the first and second Sundays of Lent the Gospel readings focus on Jesus in the desert and his Transfiguration on the mount. Matthew, Mark and Luke each give us an account of Jesus in his desert fast confronting and conquering Satan.
Then the Gospels show us the beloved Son in whom the Father is well pleased so as to prepare us for the Lenten way ahead. In the first week we ask to share in Jesus’ victory as Satan tempts him in his desert fast, and remember that is how Satan treats us, tempting us in our weakness. We pray with Jesus that we also can triumph over these temptations and faithfully follow him.
In our second week as we follow Jesus, he strengthens us by revealing to us that he is already victorious as the beloved Son of the Father.
This year the third to fifth Sundays help us to deepen our turning to Jesus and following after him. On the third Sunday Jesus calls us to repentance. Like the barren fig tree our life needs to bear fruit – we are called on to work with the Lord in his mission.
Like the prodigal son when we realize our emptiness, we are called to return to our Father and repent our waywardness. Like the prodigal’s father, God is waiting to forgive us and enrich our life with Him.
To reinforce our confidence in God’s mercy, we see Jesus with the woman taken in adultery and witness his compassion and forgiveness.
The barren fig tree, the repentant son, and the forlorn woman are each a sign to encourage us in our Lenten pilgrimage. Each stands as a beacon pointing the way to Jesus and through him to the Father.
These beacons can call us each day of the week to quiet prayer: with Jesus in the desert and on the Mount of Transfiguration. With Jesus pointing out to us a fruitful fig tree, a welcomed son, and a forgiven woman.
In this way as we savour the Sunday Gospel we are prepared for the Gospel of the sixth Sunday, the passion and death for us of the Lord.