All of us have begun to think of the ways we will behave in Lent. Most of us think of the things we should give up for Lent. If I would ask all of you to raise your hand about the things you may have decided to pray and fast during Lent each would have many different ideas. Probably the first one would be giving up some favorite food. I would like to suggest different ways to approach Lent this year.
The Gospel reading today is a bit unusual and a bit startling. The devil comes to Jesus and tempted him with food. Remember that Jesus had been fasting for a number of days and was quite hungry. It would have been easy for Jesus to abuse his power for personal gain and comfort. Have you noticed that evil tends to attack us when we are at a weak point in our lives? If I am hungry because of not eating properly, I might eat or drink something that I know better. It is important to always take care of our bodies so we do not open ourselves to temptation. Jesus had to summon strength to say,"No", when the devil asked.
The second encounter with the devil occurs when the devil asks Jesus to throw himself over a parapet of the temple. Jesus could have done this without being hurt because the angels could have caught him. Jesus resisted this temptation of showing off his power because it was not directed by God. Some of us show off our expertise and station in life because it looks good to others. It is important for us to know what situations can come up in life that tempts us to want attention from others. Jesus resisted temptation to do this because it was not what his Mother God wanted him to do.
The third temptation of Jesus was to simply submit to Satan's request because it would seem easier to do than following what Father God was going to ask him to do: the crucifixion. Jesus again said no. Do we take the easier way out by doing the seeming simple because the way of God seems so difficult? We know what is the right thing to do but we are tired, discouraged, and lack the peace of mind to think clearly. This is the third temptation of Jesus that was in the Gospel today. It is easy to relate to this temptation.
We have heard of Jesus' temptations today. We all have them but not in such dramatic fashion. We have no need to be afraid of temptations of evil because God loves us and gives us strength. I would like to suggest another way of celebrating Lent. Instead of or in addition to fasting we could do extra things. I suggest listening more closely to God in our life.
Could we give up one meal a week and then donate the money to a food pantry? Checking up on our neighbors to see if they are alright. I
Just heard of a woman that had been dead in her own garage for four years and her neighbors did not miss her. Take your usable but forgotten shoes to a shelter to see if anyone can wear them. There are many, many things we can do individually or as a group to help the poor and homeless.
Isaiah tells us what we can do: "Breaking the fetters of injustice; unfastening the thongs of the yolk; setting the oppressed free; breaking the yolk of injustice. And so fast by sharing your bread with the hungry; bring to your house the homeless; clothe the one you see naked. Then will your light break forth like the sun".