Lead Us Not Into Temptation

temptationAt the beginning of Lent there is the unique opportunity to enter a short season where we might be able to responding in a new way to the world. Many psychologists suggest 6 weeks is the ideal length of time to break a habit and pick up a new one. It is as if God invented Lent specifically to give ourselves the perfect chance of renewal and transformation.
Jesus spends forty days and nights in the desert fasting and praying. At the end of his experience he would have been hungry, would have sought companionship, would have been wanting a shower and a haircut! After forty days alone, he was vulnerable, ripe for temptation. so the devil was smart; he knew how to hit Jesus where he was most vulnerable; he tried to allure him with tantalizing temptations.
Temptations come when we are most vulnerable. It is an enticement to put our own desires and needs first, to give into our impulses without considering too seriously the consequences. Resisting temptation is resisting self-centeredness! Like Jesus, we must choose to surrender ourselves to God who alone should be the center of our lives.
The dust that shapes the journey, the cross that guides it, the color that surrounds it, the light that fades through it, the word that foretells it, The wilderness that invites it. This is Lent, and into it’s wilderness  God calls us.


For What Do You Thirst?

A stranger approaches Jacob’s Well at high noon. He is tired and thirsty. There he meets a woman who has come to draw water. Something happens between them. . . . The original readers of the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman must have felt themselves on familiar ground. The scene and characters would have wakened resonances to another well-side story, a romance, lodged deep insider the community’s memory: In Genesis the sojourner Jacob comes to a well at “high day” where he beholds his kinswoman Rachel and, Genesis adds wryly, her father’s sheep. He waters the sheep. “Then Jacob kissed Rachel. and wept aloud.” Boy meets girl; boy kisses girl; boy and girl eventually (with a huge assist from Leah) create a family of tribes, the children of Israel, that’s the way a love story is supposed turn out.

In John’s version, of course, the story takes a very different turn. From the first sharply spoken word, the conversation assumes the character of a confrontation. He is a teacher from above, brimming with heavenly wisdom; she is a woman of the world who by now has become hardened to the jokes in her village. Like Jesus, she too is thirsty, but thirsty for something she cannot name. What could these two have to say to one another?

The story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman turns out to be a love story after all, for only one who loves you knows you as you are and not as you pretend to be. Only one who loves you knows your deepest desires. Only one who loves you can look at your past without blinking.

Filled to the brim with new insight and life, the Samaritan woman runs to the townspeople to proclaim the identity of this amazing Man she encountered.

We encounter and hear Jesus everyday in the goodness and honesty of others, through our Lenten practices that bring us closer to Jesus and each other as well as the truth about ourselves.

Filled to the brim with new insight and life, we share in the very life of Jesus, proclaiming his presence by the very way we live.

God Alone

Christians tell the same story over and over even though we know how it ends. We dread the execution even as we anticipate the resurrection. The wisdom of our tradition asserts that our path is not a line but a circle—or a spiral.

As we turn from Epi­ph­any to Lent we leave the joy and wonder of the incarnation, moving from revelation and recognition to the hard work of repentance.

Forgetting that we were created for joy, many of us wrongly equate repentance with renouncing pleasure. We act as if our greatest sins were watching too much TV or eating too many chocolates. By “giving them up for Lent,” we continue to participate in the culture of consumption and individualism with a program of self-improvement.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Hes­chel wrote, “Repentance is an ab­solute, spiritual decision made in truthfulness. Its motivations are remorse for the past and responsibility for the future.” Could this be so for us?

On the surface, it might not look so different. We might still put down the chocolate bar and turn off the television, but we might also talk about our cultural addiction to spectacle, or forced child labor in the chocolate industry. Lent might look different if together we supported and created alternative media. And, rather than trading our sodas for bottled water, we stood with indigenous women defending their sacred waters.

The purpose of our fasting during Lent is to lead us, like Jesus, to hunger only for God and, like Jesus to choose to serve God alone.

What Kind of Sacrifice Does the Lord Have in Mind for Us?

Saint Angela invited her daughters to place themselves at the foot of the cross. As we prepare to celebrate the season of Lent, I ponder her words.

Jesus did the unthinkable! He wedded authority with selfless service and with loving sacrifice. Authority without sacrificial love is brutish and self-serving. Jesus also used stark language to explain what kind of sacrifice he had in mind. It was a bitter one involving crucifixion. What kind of sacrifice does the Lord have in mind for us?

For some such a sacrifice entails physical suffering and the painful struggle of martyrdom. But for many, it entails the long routine of the Christian life, with all its daily sacrifices, disappointments, set-backs, struggles, and temptations. We strive to be ready to lay down our life each and every day in the little and big sacrifices required.

An early church father summed up Jesus’ teaching with the expression: to serve is to reign with Christ. We share in God’s reign by laying down our lives in humble service as Jesus did for our sake. Are you willing to lay down your life and to serve others as Jesus did? Are you ready to place yourself at the feet of Christ crucified?

Our Lenten Journey

With the Church’s observance of Ash Wednesday 17 February 2010, Lent begins.  This holy season is a time to rediscover the Lord and live like Him more consciously.  In these forty days, marked by traditional penitential practices, we are challenged to turn away from sin.  We are called to commit ourselves anew to live the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Turning from sin and toward the Lord is the best preparation for Easter’s joy.

For Catholics, the spiritual renewal we undertake in Lent has numerous forms.  Acts of charity and alms-giving help us to become more mindful of providing for the poor all through the year.  The reception of the Sacrament of Penance offers us the Lord’s forgiveness, which is always available to us through God’s grace.  Reading Sacred Scripture opens us to hear the Word of God more deeply.  Praying the Stations of the Cross reminds us of Christ’s supreme sacrifice for us and of the importance of sacrificing for others ourselves.  Time-honored practices of fasting and abstinence bring us closer to the Lord who Himself often fasted and prayed.

When many of us were children, we might remember our giving up candy for Lent. And, it seemed like a real sacrifice. As we grew up, it was often more difficult to decide what special thing to do, to make Lent a special season – to get our attention and to prepare ourselves for deeper sacrifices.

What would help me grow in freedom? That’s the question to ask. For some of us, it could be, committing ourselves to give up judging others, every single day of Lent. For others, it could be giving up a bad habit we’ve developed. For many of us, the choice may not be to give something up, but to add something to our daily living during Lent. We may commit ourselves to extra prayer time. We may decide to do some service for the poor. We may choose to increase our alms-giving-perhaps related to something we choose not to do- not going out to eat and giving that money to a charity that feeds the hungry.

Whether it is fasting, abstaining or other acts of penance, the whole desire we should have is to use these means to help us grow closer to our Lord and prepare ourselves to celebrate the paschal mystery with hearts and minds renewed.