A friend pointed out to me recently that after Jesus was baptized and before He went out into the desert, He heard the voice of the Father saying, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased" (Lk 3:22). What consoling, strengthening words! In the devil's temptations of Jesus, he challenged Jesus' trust in the love of God the Father and of Jesus' identity as His Son. The Israelites were tested in the same way during their 40 years in the desert, but they failed in their trust in God. Jesus did not.
Jesus heard the Father's words of love and did not doubt them, and He remained faithful in the desert. If Jesus, the Son of God, needed to hear these words, how do I think that I can remain faithful to God without accepting these words? How can I step into the desert of the Great Fast, or even step any further into the desert of monastic life, if I do not pause and simply let God love me? If I continue to think that I have to earn God's love, that I have to do the right things in order to be pleasing to Him, or that I am not of priceless value just as a child of God, then how will I not succumb to all of the devil's temptations?
Before I can fast, I need to know God's love for me in a deeper way. Fasting is not what draws God's love to me; the poverty of my humanity and my existence as His child does that. Before we step out (or step further out) into the desert of Lent, let's give God a chance to speak these words to us in the unique way that He speaks to each of our hearts: "You are my beloved son (or daughter); with you I am well pleased." And then our fasting will open us even more to His love and mercy.