Today we begin a very special season in our liturgical year, Lent. Our English word “Lent” is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word “lencten” which is roughly translated to mean Spring. So, like the season of spring, we are called to be rejuvinated, to be given life once again and to spread the seed of faith into the world. It is a time of rebirth. In Spanish we use the word “Cuaresma” which comes from the Latin word “quadragesima” which means “forty days” or rather “the fortieth day”. This term points back to the forty days which Jesus spent in the desert where he prepared for his earthly ministry, facing the temptations that humanity would face. Cardinal DiNardo (Archbishop of Galveston-Houston), in one of his homilies stated that this was a time for quarantine, a moment when we were called to reflect on our sinfulness and to purify ourselves. In either instance, Lent is a very important part of our year. It is during this season that we are called to transform our lives and rededicate our lives to God. It is during this time that we are called to remove all idols from our lives and to recommit to the will of God, avoiding temptation.
DO NOT FEAR TEMPTATION
Jesus spent 40 days in the desert. There he was tempted by Satan three times.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.He fasted for forty days and forty nights,and afterwards he was hungry.
The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.”
He said in reply, “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple,and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’”
Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence,and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”
At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’”
Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
There are many interpretations as to what the temptations were all about in the Gospel of Matthew. But, what I find as the underlying theme in this passage is the temptation to fulfill our own desires, doing our own will.
These temptations, when we fall to them, can become sin and can easily become idols in our lives. They can become so important to our existence that we place them before God. Idolatry, which, if looked at carefully, is the door way to sin because we forget God and place other things before him.
But Jesus gives us the hope and grace to persevere and to combat the temptation. Each time that Jesus is faced with a human temptation of pleasing bodily desires, desire for power and wealth and living in comfort at whatever cost, Jesus turns to his faith in God the Father and faithfully combats the tempter. We too must hold on to our faith in God in order that we might be able to withstand the trials of life. Do this we are able to remain connected and return to God.
HOW ARE WE CALLED TO RETURN TO GOD?
Jesus in the Gospel of Saint Matthew gives a three-fold way of returning to God. He lays out what the church teaches to be of great importance during this season; PRAYER, FASTING and ALMSGIVING.
Prayer is essential for all Christian living. It is through prayer that we open ourselves to receive the grace that is necessary to perform the will of God. For it is only through prayer that we are able to begin to know what God’s will is for our life. Prayer is much more than “Give me Lord”, but it is “Lord show me your way”. If we recall the passage of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, we see that Jesus prayed, yes for he asked of what he was desiring, but ultimately he surrendered to the will of God. It is important to pray always, as St. Paul tells us. However, during this season of rebirth, it is vital that we find more time to pray, more time to communicate with God.
For Christian and Jews, Fasting is an important role in living out the faith. Fasting has so many different meanings but there are two which stand out to me; solidarity with Christ in his passion and solidarity with our brothers and sisters who suffer poverty. When we participate in some kind of fast; fast from TV, Computer, Facebook, Chocolate, etc… it is not so much to see how long we can last through lent, or to see how much weight we can lose, but rather, it is to unite us to the suffering servant, Jesus Christ, on his way to Calvary. It is also to help us remember that we have always had a preferential option for the poor, meaning that we are called to serve the poor. Fasting should help us to become ever more aware of the luxurious life we have and become more grateful to God. During this season, when we decide what we will sacrifice for the season, it should be something that will help us grow closer with God and with his people.
Finally, comes Almsgiving. throughout our Catholic tradition, the church has always been an arm of charity in the world. The church is missionary and is called to go out into the world spreading the gospel. But, she is also entrusted to take care of the oppressed. Let us be aware of the needs of others around us. During this season we should look at the needs of our brethren and offer at least our love and whatever possible assistance we can give. Remember Charity is more than a handout, it is love.
May this season be one of deep repentance, conversion and dependence on your mercy.