Readings: Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7; Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 17; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11
Do you have a plan for Lent?
If you were here for Ash Wednesday, you were given a handout. On this handout were a number of prayers, fasting and alms-giving ideas. The purpose of the handout is to help you create you plan for Lent. If you were not here, or maybe you misplaced the handout, there are copies in gathering area or on the parish website. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to create a plan for yourself for this lent.
Lent is a time of preparation. It is a time to experience a conversion. It is a time to change yourself to become closer to the person God created you to become. It is a time to refocus your life on God.
In the first reading, we hear the exchange between the serpent and the woman. We hear how the serpent, mixing some truths in with his lies, temps the woman to eat from the tree God instructed them not to eat from. The serpent is successful, the woman eats the fruit and gives some to her husband who also ate it.
Listening to this passage, we may be tempted to to “blame” the first sin on the woman. But we would be wrong. If we listen or read the passage closely, we will find it says her husband was with her. Why did he allow the conversation to continue? Why did he not chase the serpent away? Why did he the fruit? It is because he was tempted also. Both are equally at fault for the first sin.
We may also be tempted to think “why did they fall for that temptation?” They have everything they need, a place to live, food, everything. Are they really any different from us with our desires for more – a bigger house, a bigger paycheck better toys, the newest technology, power? When we, like them, take our focus off of God, and focus on something else, we fall for temptations.
In the gospel reading, we once again hear about temptations. Jesus is in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. Imagine what it would be like if you spent 40 days by yourself, in a desert, fasting. At the end of those 40 days, we would be hungry, we would be tired, we would want to see someone. That is probably what Jesus was experiencing. Then the tempter shows up, and challenges Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” Jesus was hungry. Imagine yourself in that situation, when you are hungry and you had the power to change stones into bread. Being Jesus is human, he had to have at least thought about it. But, because he was also praying while fasting, he was focusing on God, and trying to become the person God created him to be, he was able to resist the temptation. He quotes scripture to the devil that “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”
The Devil tries again. This time taking Jesus to the top of the Temple and challenges him to jump off and let God’s angels protect him. Have you ever been challenged or “dared” to do something that was not right by a sibling or classmate or someone else? They keep bugging and pestering you that even though you know you should not do it, you want to do it because you know you can probably “get away” with it and to get them to stop pestering you? Jesus may have been experiencing those same thoughts and feelings. But, because he was praying, he was trying to become the person God created him to be, because he was keeping his eyes focused on God, he was able to resist the temptations of the devil and tell him “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.
The Devil is persistent, he now takes Jesus to the top of a high mountain, where he shows Jesus all of the Kingdoms of the world and offers them to Jesus if he simply bows down and worships the Devil. Imagine you are standing on the top of Harney Peak on a beautiful sunny spring day, where you can see thousands and thousands of acres of forest and plains, and standing next to you is someone that says they can give all of that to you, if you just worship them. Would you be tempted? Would you think about it? Those are the same thoughts that may have passed through Jesus’ human mind. But because he was praying, he was focusing on God, and trying to become the person God created him to be, he was able to say “Get away, Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”
Which brings me back to the question – do you have a plan for Lent? How are you going to prepare this lent? What are you going to do the change, to have a conversion, to work on becoming the person God created you to be? How are you going to keep your focus on God?
Through prayer, we develop a stronger relationship with God. Through fasting, we open ourselves up to become the person God created us to be. When we fast from food, our bodies will remind us through the pains of hunger, to think of God and continue our conversation with God, in other words, to pray. If we fast from TV, it gives us time to read the bible or pray a family rosary. If we fast from texting and social media, it gives us time to actually talk to friends, parents, grandparents, or maybe go visit them or those who are sick or home-bound. By developing a relationship with others, it helps us understand and build our relationship with God.
So I challenge you, if you haven’t already created your plan for Lent, do it today. And once you have your plan, commit to following it all the way through Lent. By following your plan of prayer, fasting and alms-giving, you will be working on becoming the person God created you to be. It will help you keep your focus on God. And at the end of Lent, when you look back at this Lenten Season, you will discover you have had the best Lent you’ve ever had. And you will be prepared to respond like Jesus did, to temptations.