Here's a riddle: What did Catherine the Great, Attila the Hun and Pope John the XXIII all have in common? Answer: They all had the same middle name "THE!" Of course they had something else in common as well, something more important by far. They all had what they needed to accomplish what they accomplished in their lives. So do we!

Each of us is entrusted at birth with a special array of talents uniquely suited to our personality. With these talents we have the power to construct a good and satisfying life. However, because these talents, no matter how great, still have limitations, we are easy marks for that lying inner voice that whispers, "Aha, the talent you have is not enough, you know, not nearly enough to make yourself a good and satisfying life. You'll need more. You'll need what I can give you!"

That is the same voice that Jesus hears in these long days of his solitary fast in the desert wilderness. The lying voice of the demon within tells him it's not enough for him to heal people's hearts, it's not enough to feed and forgive them, it's not enough to change people simply by loving them unconditionally. The demon's voice goes on to urge Jesus: "If you really want a good and satisfying life, if you really want to be famous and important in the eyes of people who matter, you've got to be a showman. You've got to change rocks into bread, you've got to show some razzle-dazzle, you've got to grab for power!"

Of course it's a lie, albeit an attractive lie; but that whispering inner voice has power because it taps into the very core of what makes Jesus unique, and it proposes nothing less than to steal his very heart. Imagine the tragedy for us if Jesus listens to that lie and betrays the very talents God gives him to share with us.

You and I are not strangers to this whispering, lying voice; we are not immune to those demons speaking within us. These voices speak to each and everyone here. They insist, "Your talents are not enough for a good and satisfying life. You are far too ordinary. There is nothing special about you. But if you look my way, I can give you some razzle-dazzle. I can make you important." Jesus saw through this charade, recognizing the temptations for what they were: empty promises of the demons within. So must we!

God blesses each of us with unique grace and talent. If we are faithful stewards of this grace, the inner demons tempting us will have no power to steal our hearts, no power to trick us into belittling our talents, no power to make us feel small or inconsequential.

So we are thankful for our unique gifts and talents. We use them to build our lives God's way : slowly, steadily. Razzle-dazzle is not ordinarily a part of God's plan. We simply work together to do ordinary things extraordinarily well. In doing so, we build a strong character, a healthy family and a supportive faith community here at Jesus Our Shepherd. We're all in this together, so let's fully appreciate the talents we have and share them generously with each other. Let this be our Lenten promise. Happy Lent!

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