Welcome to Lent Brothers and sisters – a penitential season we are given to prepare ourselves for the ‘main event’ of our Catholic faith (the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ).
Today’s readings are full of temptations and responses to them. What exactly is a temptation? One definition is – the desire to do something, especially something wrong or unwise. What leads us to temptation? Free will and our human desire is what causes us to give in to temptation and sin.
In the book of Genesis, the serpent’s temptation causes Adam and Eve to sin against God. God created the earth and everything in it and gave it all to Adam and Eve to care for. God only prohibited them from eating of the fruit from the tree in the center of the garden. And the serpent knew this and used it as an opportunity to trick Adam and Eve into eating the fruit. This of course leads to original sin and breaks the relationship between them and God.
Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans tells how Adam’s action brought sin, transgression, disobedience, judgment, condemnation and death into the world. And through God’s ‘gracious gift’ we were given Jesus Christ to save us from sin and restore our relationship with the Father. Christ; obedient and righteous, brings grace, justification, acquittal, and life.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus had fasted and prayed for 40 days and nights while in the desert. The devil saw this as an opportunity to temp Jesus, not once but three times. But even in his weakened human state, Jesus remains faithful to God and refuses to give in to the devil’s temptations. With each temptation Jesus refutes them with words from scripture. “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” “The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.” Jesus shows his reliance on the Father and does not give into his human weakness.
“Where did Jesus find the strength to survive the desert's harsh conditions and the tempter's seduction? He fed on God's word and found strength in doing his Father's will. Satan will surely tempt us and he will try his best to get us to choose our will over God's will. If he can't make us renounce our faith or sin mortally, he will then try to get us to make choices that will lead us, little by little, away from what God wants for us.
Jesus was tempted like us and he overcame sin not by his own human effort but by the grace and strength which his Father gave to him. He had to renounce his human will for the will of his Father. He succeeded because he wanted to please his Father and he trusted that his Father would give him the strength to overcome the obstacles that stood in the way. When tempted by the devil Jesus did not try to fight his adversary on his own human strength. He relied on the power which the Spirit gave him. Jesus came to overthrow the evil one who held us captive to sin and fear of death. His obedience to his Father's will and his willingness to embrace the cross reversed the curse of Adam's disobedience. His victory over sin and death won for us not only pardon for our sins but adoption as sons and daughters of God.” Laudate
Where Adam and Eve failed against temptation, created original sin and caused a break in the relationship with God; Jesus succeeded against temptation and through his resurrection restored the broken relationship with God for all of humanity.
We all face temptations to sin. The question is whether we will give in to those temptations as Adam and Eve did or will we rely on our faith in God to show us how to live and resist sin against Him. The choice we make will either cause a break in our relationship with God or, if we choose wisely, enhance our relationship with Him.
It is not easy to live a righteous life. We have pressure coming at us constantly from family, from friends, from society, and from many different forms of social media.
We are lucky to have this Lenten season to help us deepen our faith and spiritual life. The question is will each of us make the time to take advantage of the opportunities to do just that. Instead of going out to dinner, the movies or shopping on Friday evenings – why not come and take part in the Stations of the Cross. The stations are a wonderful way to deepen our understanding of the final hours of Jesus’ life on earth and the incredible gift he gave us – the chance for eternal life with Him.
If you have not had the time for Eucharistic Adoration (or Holy Hour) – please give it a try. I myself have been attending adoration Wednesday mornings for the past year. Even though I need to adjust my schedule and get up an hour earlier to do so, I look forward to that quiet time in the presence of Jesus. The time helps keep me focused on what’s really important in this life and helps me get through the rough spots in the rest of my week. Adoration is truly a gift to us – to help us deepen our faith and our relationship with God.
There is no better time to take advantage of the sacrament of reconciliation then during lent. Lent is all about giving up our weakness to sin and to work on our relationship with God. What better way to do so, then to do a deep examination of our conscience and go to reconciliation. We can take it a step further and do a daily examination of our consciousness, asking where God was or was not present in our day. Then ask ourselves how to make him present in every part of our day. The experience will lighten our soul, improve our relationship with God and help us to avoid whatever leads us to sin.
Lent should not be looked at as a 40-day weight lost program through fast. It is about fasting from the things that lead us to give into temptation; not about fasting from a particular food or snack that is our favorite. It’s about fasting from gossip. It’s about fasting from jealousy. It’s about fasting from looking the other way when we see someone in need. It’s about fasting from all things that might break our relationship with God.
As we walk through Lent, we’re not alone because we have our community of faithful that are on the same path. That path is the conversion of our souls and a deepening of our relationship with God. But we also have our Father in heaven, our Savior Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to walk with us as well. We simply have to ask them for guidance and then patiently wait for an answer. We just have to get used to being aware of the answer and know that it may not be the answer we want or what we were expecting. Remember the lines we pray often “Thy will be done” and “Lead us not into temptation”.
This lent we can continue to receive God’ gifts and then squander them. Or we can use those gifts to deepen our spiritual life, deepen our relationship with God and deepen our relationship with those around us. The choice is ours – that is why God gave each us the Free Will to choose.
Jesus goes into the desert and fasts for 40 days. Now we’re going into the desert with him. What are we giving up? Because Lent is not about losing a few pounds just to gain it all back on Easter Sunday. It’s about becoming something more – the person God is calling us to become.
As I started my Lenten journey on Ash Wednesday, I was reminded of a particular verse from one of my favorite hymns – The Servant Song:
“We are pilgrims on a journey,
we are trav’lers on the road;
We are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the Load.” The Servant Song
This verse sets the stage for how I will walk through my Lenten journey. I hope it helps each of you do the same. May God be your guide this Lent and always. Amen.