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SUNDAY SCRIPTURES FOR FEB. 26 | The ashes of Lent invite us to awaken to reality

Too often, we find ourselves drawn to the three temptations Jesus endured in the desert

The words we hear on Ash Wednesday are God’s attempt to wake us up into conversion. We try fear as a tactic to wake people up, which sometimes works for a short time. Having experiences that threaten our lives or having near misses about losing some of our security have the power to get our attention. But awakening through fear usually lasts for a short amount of time before we revert back to our belief that we have unending days to live as we wish. That is not the truth, never has been the truth and never will be the truth.

Our days on this earth are limited, regardless of how long we will eventually live. We will all end up as dust, even if we pretend that isn’t true. The ashes at the beginning of Lent invite us to awaken to reality. We are invited to take responsibility for our lives and make choices, so that we live and look more like Jesus.

The first Sunday of Lent always has one of the renditions of the temptations of Jesus in the desert; this year we hear Matthew’s rendition. I think it’s important to state the obvious. Our Lenten observance is meant to clear away the unnecessary distractions that are part of our lives. That isn’t just to make us suffer, but it is meant to heighten our understanding of how we have given into the temptations that life offers us.

Each of the temptations invites us to focus on our humanity and willingness to embrace ourselves as truly human. We are not to act like God, nor should we be testing God. Spoken in those clear words, we would think it silly to do any of those things, but we do them nearly every day without thinking. Those actions that flow from the temptations have become so much a part of our lives that they become unconscious habits. Unconscious habits can only be changed when we become aware of them and make a choice to practice something different.

At this point, are we attempting to live on bread alone and not on the Word of God? Have we let seeking things keep us from seeking God’s Word? Fasting might help us each to discover the ways that we try to live on bread alone. Is giving God one hour of attendance at church on Sunday really enough to nourish us?

In what ways are we living risky lives, walking outside the guideline of healthy and holy behavior and testing the boundaries of life and death? How many of us are spending beyond our means and ignoring the poor? How many of us are eating beyond our means and ignoring the hungry? How many of us are doing things to our bodies or minds that are risky and then are surprised when we get sick? Or are we regularly asking God for protection when we could do better ourselves?

What or who has become God for you? I know this is hard to admit, but what are you spending more time and energy on than you do on God? That might have become your God.

“Be merciful, oh God, for we have sinned.”

Father Donald Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.

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