Each year our Church begins Lent with one of the synoptic Gospel’s rendition of the Temptations of Jesus in the desert. It is a clear attempt for us to see the path that Jesus took as He prepared to begin His public life. In the segment we hear from Mark’s Gospel, only four verses, we get just the details. We get that famous length of 40 days after which our Lent is fashioned. We hear that He was tempted, that He lived in a very wild area and we are given the instructions for this time of year. Repent and believe in the Gospel.
Our time in the desert, if we truly practice prayer, fasting and almsgiving, will be filled with various temptations. This is the perfect season to identify our most vulnerable alluring temptations toward evil. I think most of us are aware of the habitual temptations in our lives. We can recognize which of the seven deadly sins seem to be more attractive to us. We also know those recurring opportunities for doing good in the world that we refuse to do. We might even be tempted to simply pass over this season rather than live it deeply. It’s easy to feel sorry for ourselves during this pandemic. We have had to do without a lot of our ordinary life but that doesn’t make us helpless victims. We can still choose to live deeply what God is asking us to do during this time.
Once we have a identified those areas of allurement to evil, we can then set about trying to do some thing about it. We have the age old saying and wisdom to avoid the near occasions of sin. Are any of us still arrogant enough to believe that we can engage in risky behavior without it affecting us? Are there any of us who still believe that talking about somebody behind their back really has no evil effect on the world? Is it true that there are still some of us who believe that we have no responsibility for those who hunger and thirst for justice and mercy? Are there any of us who still believe that every human being is a person not worthy of dignity simply because they make our lives inconvenient or have heard us? This is a time to dig deep, be extremely honest with ourselves and to choose to do something that will make our life different not just through this season but even afterward.
God has made a covenant with us, and God will be faithful to that covenant forever. That gift of love ought to prompt a love response within our own mind and heart as well. What will be your love response toward God and others during this season of Lent? Will you take this opportunity to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation? Will you choose to make amends toward those you have hurt, abandoned or ignored? Will you do whatever you can to build up the strength of your family? Will you choose to embrace more insecurity in your life for the sake of deeper loving and generosity? Where are you still tempted to judge other people by their outward appearance or the rumors that you’ve heard about them? Where do you still allow prejudice and hatred to find a place in your mind and heart? Where are you choosing to live dishonestly and pretending as if it’s the truth? Where do you still allow self-hatred, self loathing and unbridled guilt to determine how you treat yourself?
Let’s have a great start to the season of Lent by taking the lead of the Church to enter the desert, experience the allurement of evil, call out for the help that we need for repentance and be ready to celebrate Easter as the resurrection of Jesus Christ and our own rebirth.
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.