Christianity has long had a fascination with the desert. The Bible treats the desert as a place of great transition: it is where the Israelites passed through on their way to the Promised Land, and in today’s Gospel it is where Christ goes for the period between his baptism and the beginning of his public ministry. As we wait for Easter Sunday (where we as well begin our public ministry anew), the Lenten season, especially this Sunday can be for us a time of training and preparation for said ministry.
This dynamic is captured in the Collect when the priest prays that “what we may strive to obtain from Thee by abstinence, we may obtain by good works.” Ash Wednesday emphasized that in order for our fasting to be fruitful; we had to fast spiritually as well as physically. Fasting from meat means nothing if we are still gossiping and lying about others. Likewise, the Collect tells us that for fasting to be fruitful, it must lead to outward action. Our fasting from meat is fruitful not only because we are also not swearing, but because in the place of profanity we are using speech to edify and build up, instead of tearing down. Fasting gives self-control to help battle against the desires of the flesh, but in place of such desires we should learn to see people for what they really are: a gift willed by God for another only through their vocation, whether it is the married or religious life.