Today we take leave of Ordinary Time. It won't be back until May 24, the day after Pentecost. Instead, when we wake, it will already be time to prepare our minds and hearts for Easter, the centerpiece and hinge of the Church year.
Today's Mass readings are just right for equipping us for Lent. Both of them go to the heart of the dispositions that compromise our life in God, revealing our vulnerability to something that seems insignificant, innocuous, tiny: a desire in the heart; an interior attitude or judgment in the mind... Without discernment (sifting to "hold fast to what is good; avoid what is evil"), these can expand, conforming the whole self interiorly to an unacknowledged, unrecognized but very real falsehood, until the person cannot conceive of life in any other way.
There's certainly enough of that going around for all of us to be very, very attentive! Our culture is full of the "leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod." So many of today's "givens" lead to conclusions that contradict the whole truth about what it means to be made in the image of God, and yet we can hardly avoid breathing these assumptions in. Lent offers us the opportunity to pull back, to practice not just a bodily austerity but even interior self-discipline--something like the housecleaning observant Jewish families do before Passover, turning over every seat cushion, pulling every bit of furniture out of its usual spot in order to clear away every molecule of "chametz" (leaven).
As St. Paul said, "Be transformed by the renewal of your minds!" That's the real goal of Lent!