Readings for Today
There are certain events in yyour life, of course, that you never forget. For example, the birth of a child or your wedding day. My Ordination Day, when I became a priest was such a day for me.
One event that stands out in my mind that day was a conversation with one of my favorite aunts. She was quite the character, always making me laugh and being concerned that the “cousins” were having a great time. I remember trips to her house and summers on the lake as some of the fondest memories I have of growing up.
She was, however, a character. to give you an example, I remember one Easter Satruday, at her house, where all day she said, “oh, I have to get Easter candy.” The whole day played out like this, until ten minutes before the department store closed she left, to be found banging on the doors of the department store asking to get in to buy candy. (They obliged.)
But there was one encounter that I had with her on the day of my ordination that I will never forget, and in many respects, has been a guiding principle of my life. We were alone for a moment, and she said to me, “Father (only time she called me that), remember, life is hard. Be good to us.”
The gospel for the First Sunday of Lent always features one of the accounts of the temptation of Jesus in the desert. Early in his ministry, Jesus is confronted with those things that could lead him away from his important mission . Take the easy way. Put God to the test. Seek glory and fame.
For us, I think this reading is placed here because it is important to note that our lives, too are filled with temptations as well. What is yours? For some, it is to want to gather lots and lots of material things. You know the old saying, “The one with the most toys wins.” Yet we live in a world of unbeliveable poverty. For others, it is to dull the pain of life with alcohol, drugs, or porn. For still others, it may be the constant need to be the center of attention, or to be always successful, even if such success comes at the expense of others. It may be that we struggle to turn our back on the poor, or to try to understand that coworker that is difficult, or the relationship in our family that has been broken for too long.
The season of Lent is a time to remove what keeps us from Christ, to sacrifice, not as a test of will power, but rather as a mechanism to bring us closer to Jesus.
This story of Jesus’ temptation is interesting because it is the Spirit that leads Jesus into the desert. We may think it is strange that the Spirit of God would lead Jesus into the desert. But these tempations are not simply with Jesus for just today. They follow him throughout his public ministry. (Remember Jesus’ sharp words to Peter, “Get behind me Satain!”)
It is also important for us to name our temptations. When we can name them, it is more likely we control them, and not the other way around. This brings the freedom of following God, which enables us to be ourselves.
And yet, perhaps this encounter, and the knowledge that Jesus could overcome it, was the reason he was led. We of course, since we are not the Son of God, do not have such strength, and hence we pray, “lead us not into temptation”, knowing that we need the strength of God’s grace to be drawn ever closer to him.
The parish provides us with many opportunities to open our hearts to God. If you find yourself with too much clutter, perhaps the 40 bags (or items) in 40 days are a way to simplify your life. Every Friday we are invited to the Stations of the Cross to remind ourselves of the great self gift of Jesus that leads us to salvation. Sacrifice is not always attractive, but we know that in most of the important relationships, if there is to be a successful relationship, then it involves sacrifice.
You might think feeding the hunger of stomach and sould on Wednesdays at 6, with Soup and Substance. It has been so successful in the past that I am confident it will help again this year.
Whatever it is you do, do so with the heart that is open to the Spirit, knowing that we may be led whrere we do not want to go. But as long as we have the companionship of Jesus, we will always be ok.